Fetterman (D), who initially downplayed the severity of the stroke before the May primary and has been slowly making his way on the campaign trail, said earlier this month that he was “grateful” to be alive. On Wednesday, he said comments from his Republican foe, who hosted a reality show dispensing medical advice, had drawn the race to a new rhetorical low.
“I had a stroke. I’m a survivor,” Fetterman said in a statement. “I know politics can be bad, but even then, I can’t imagine mocking someone for their health challenges.”
In addition to that statement, Fetterman’s campaign also released a letter Wednesday from more than 100 physicians in the state criticizing Oz for what they said is a history of “promoting unproven, ill-advised, and sometimes potentially dangerous treatments.”
“As a TV celebrity doctor, Mehmet Oz has a shameful disregard for medical science and the well-being of his audience,” the doctors wrote in the letter.
Oz has promoted dubious weight loss treatments and suggested chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as treatments for Covid-19 in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a report released Wednesday, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis said White House officials and outside allies such as Oz also pressured federal officials in 2020 to authorize hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment.
The latest clash between Fetterman and Oz comes as Democrats seek to maintain their razor-thin control of the Senate in the midterm elections, which have historically seen losses for the party that controls the White House. Oz narrowly won the Republican nomination due to his personal fortune and the support of former President Donald Trump.
Candidates have traded bars through public statements and social media. Fetterman’s team tries to portray Oz as a wealthy carpetbagger from New Jersey; Team Oz is portraying Fetterman as a soft-on-crime, sanctuary-city-supporting socialist.
Memes of the race have produced occasional, unintentionally hilarious moments, and helped fuel the perception that Fetterman has the momentum. In April, Oz released a video where, in an attempt to discuss inflation, he bought vegetables at a supermarket. “That’s $20 for crudite!” Oz said in the video.
The video later went viral when viewers commented that Oz was shopping at “Wegner’s,” which doesn’t exist but looks like a combination of a supermarket Redner’s and Wegman’s, and that’s what many people would call what he put together. In the form of a vegetable tray.
The Oz campaign has kept the issue alive for more than a week, criticizing Fetterman’s eating habits on Tuesday. Fetterman, meanwhile, has capitalized on it, with his campaign raising half a million dollars on video, including $65,000 from a sticker with the words: “Wagners: Let them eat crudite.”
Fetterman also poked fun at Oz after The Daily Beast revealed he had 10 properties instead of the two he had publicly admitted.
Oz defended himself by saying he bought the homes with his own money — a swipe at Fetterman, who relied on significant financial support from his family until he became lieutenant governor in 2019.
Two Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), who is retiring at the end of his term, is running for the seat.