Why is the Fetterman campaign still stonewalling on his medical condition?

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Good question, and it comes as no surprise that Salena Zito is one of the few — if any — reporters asking it. John Fetterman suffered a stroke in May, a consequence of an unrevealed chronic case of cardiomyopathy. For weeks, the Fetterman family and campaign insisted that Fetterman had recovered from the former and had the latter under control, but declined to share medical reports on either condition.

And after several weeks of clearly struggling to communicate on the campaign trail, Fetterman’s team still won’t provide updates on his medical condition or prognosis. Salena notes the irony of this coming from a self-professed populist:

Despite numerous editorials from local newspapers across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as well as the Washington Post, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s campaign still refuses to release updates on his medical condition. That includes not just the aftereffects from his stroke earlier this year but also an update on the heart condition that caused it. …

The evidence of the stroke’s impact is now manifest. Fetterman struggles to speak at his campaign rallies. He relies on tropes, such as talking about New Jersey, crudites, and banning the filibuster, rather than speaking extemporaneously on current issues. His symptoms have never been addressed by the medical experts who are treating him. No doctor has spoken publicly about his condition outside of the letter released by his cardiologist in June. No doctor has taken questions about him from the media.

Can this man serve the state effectively as senator for the full six-year term? The lack of transparency from a candidate whose advisers have called him “authentic, straight-talking, no-B.S. populist” has left Pennsylvania voters in the dark.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s editorial board has gone on the record demanding transparency. In fact, they called for both Fetterman and opponent Dr. Mehmet Oz to fully disclose their medical record so that voters can make an informed decision in the midterm election:

Further delays in scheduling a debate between U.S. Senate candidates John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz have raised more questions about Mr. Fetterman’s health, including his ability to communicate and process information. He has increased his public appearances, but his speech remains halting, and he repeats key phrases like mantras.

To reassure the public, Mr. Fetterman ought to release the full results of his cognitive tests and other medical records, and make his doctors available to the media. Mr. Oz should release his medical records, too.

So far, Mr. Fetterman’s campaign has reported a specific (and normal) score from his July Saint Louis University Mental Status Examination (SLUMS), but has said only that his more recent Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS) test was “in the normal range.” The RBANS test results in distinct scores in five areas: immediate memory, visuospatial/constructional, language, attention and delayed memory. The campaign should tell voters how Mr. Fetterman performed in each category.

Today, Oz ramped up the pressure on Fetterman by doing exactly what the PP-G demanded.

The release looks comprehensive, and Spencer Brown reviews it at Townhall:

The years-worth of medical information leading up to this week released by Oz also includes a series of letters, starting with one in July 2014 from Dr. Rebecca Kurth following a regular checkup that found Oz in a normal, healthy condition. A DXA whole body composition scan led his doctor to conclude Oz was “super fit with ideal body composition!” In summary, Kurth said Oz was “in overall EXCELLENT health.”

Another letter from Dr. Kurth following a regular checkup in January 2018 reaffirmed that Oz was in “overall EXCELLENT health” and his bloodwork and test results showed normal/healthy levels on the key metrics.

The most recent information comes, again, from Dr. Kurth based on a checkup on September 22, 2022. Once again, Kurth reiterated that Oz is in “overall EXCELLENT health” after an exam that showed he “is healthy and the blood tests are all favorable.” Kurth’s notes state that Oz is “well developed, well nourished, alert, in no apparent distress” and “oriented to person, place, and time.”

Along with the letter from Kurth on his latest checkup, Oz also released his latest EKG (dated 9/22/2022) that showed normal/healthy heart activity and a pathology report for a pre-cancerous polyp that was discovered during a colonoscopy conducted the same year as part of The Doctor Oz Show.

It looks as if Oz went to the doctor yesterday specifically to make this argument on medical transparency. Whether Team Fetterman liked it or not, that raises the stakes on their own refusal to disclose their candidate’s true medical condition. With early voting about to get underway in Pennsylvania, perhaps Fetterman and his handlers think they can run out the clock. However, they may end up convincing voters that they’re running away from transparency for some damning reasons — and the longer people get that impression, the more those early votes will start reflecting those fears, or at the very least, the longer people will wait to cast them.

If Fetterman can do the job, then transparency shouldn’t be a problem. The clear implication of all this dodging is that Fetterman’s not up to the job or the campaign — and they’re trying to cover it up.