Republicans suggest John Fetterman is too sick to serve. Neurologists call attacks uninformed

Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman returned to the campaign trail last month after a mid-May stroke.
Since returning to the campaign trail last month after a mid-May stroke, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democrat vying for the state’s open Senate seat, sometimes speaks haltingly to voters — pausing in the middle of sentences and slurring his words.

Otherwise, he has said, he has “no physical limits” and no issues with memory or language comprehension. In an interview on MSNBC last week, Fetterman, who works with a speech therapist, said he was “expecting to have a full recovery over the next several months.”

But Republicans have seized on his public appearances and his post-stroke behavior to suggest that he is not fit to serve in the Senate, a claim outside medical experts reject as reductive.

“It’s just not possible to be an effective senator if you cannot communicate,” retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, whose seat Fetterman hopes to fill, said Tuesday at a press conference with Dr. Mehmet Oz, the GOP nominee and Fetterman’s opponent.

PHOTO: Sen. Pat Toomey holds a press conference with Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz on Sept. 6, 2022, in Philadelphia.
Sen. Pat Toomey holds a press conference with Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz on Sept. 6, 2022, in Philadelphia.
Mark Makela/Getty Images
Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, was even more blunt in his criticism last week on Newsmax: “John Fetterman is simply not capable of doing this job. He’s hiding in his basement, he’s not able to talk, he’s not able to process.”

MORE: Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman ramps back up campaign schedule with Hamptons fundraiser
The scrutiny of and questions about Fetterman’s health underscores the stakes of his race against Oz, which could decide who controls Congress’ upper chamber next year. Major politicians suffering health challenges mid-campaign — when they would normally be stumping for voters, night and day — is also relatively rare, and Fetterman’s campaign has been careful of overexposing him while he recovers.

His aides did not respond to requests to make his medical team available for this story. He has, however, previously responded directly to the GOP jabs at his recovery: “I know politics can be nasty, but even then, I could *never* imagine ridiculing someone for their health challenges,” he tweeted in August.

“Anyone who’s seen John speak knows that while he’s still recovering, he’s more capable of fighting for [Pennsylvania] than Dr. Oz will ever be,” a spokesman said earlier this week.