Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman “has no work restrictions and can work full duty in public office” as the Democratic Senate candidate recovers from a debilitating stroke, his primary care physician said.
Fetterman “is recovering well from his stroke and his health has continued to improve,” wrote Dr. Clifford Chen of Duquesne, Pennsylvania, in a note shared by the candidate’s campaign Wednesday morning.
“He spoke intelligently without cognitive deficits” during a follow-up visit on Friday, Chen wrote. “Occasionally words he will ‘miss’ which seems like he doesn’t hear the word but it is actually not processed properly.”
The doctor’s assessment came as Fetterman’s auditory processing ability has drawn questions about the candidate’s health in the late stages of the campaign.
In recent interviews, Fetterman has used a teleprompter to provide live closed captioning in order to fully understand the questions being asked of him. The Democrat will use the same visual aid next week in his one and only debate against Dr. Mehmet Oz, a Republican backed by former President Donald Trump.
“Unfortunately for Dr. Oz, I’m ready to serve and continue to get better every single day,” Fetterman said in a news release.
Fetterman has consistently led Oz in polls of the race, which is considered Democrats’ best opportunity to pick up a GOP-held seat as they try to cling to their Senate majority.
As Oz and his campaign try to make up ground in the contest, they have launched attacks on Fetterman’s health, openly questioning whether he is physically fit for office. The lawmaker the candidates hope to replace, retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, has also sowed doubts about Fetterman’s ability to serve.
“If John Fetterman were elected to the Senate, and he’s not able to communicate effectively, if he’s not able to engage with the press, if he’s not able to engage with his colleagues, he will not be able to do the job,” Toomey said at an Oz campaign event last month.
Responding to the doctor’s note Wednesday, Oz spokesperson Rachel Tripp said it was “good news” that Fetterman received “a clean bill of health” before attacking his record on crime and his tax history. She also pushed for Fetterman to agree to hold a second debate with Oz.
Fetterman suffered the stroke in May, just before winning the Democratic nomination to compete for Toomey’s seat. The stroke took Fetterman off the campaign trail for three months.
Even during Fetterman’s extended absence, Oz trailed in the polls as his opponents labeled him an out-of-touch carpet bagger from New Jersey. The race appears to have tightened considerably in recent weeks, though polling averages show Fetterman still leads Oz.
Chen’s evaluation of Fetterman “must be crushing news for Oz, who has been rooting against John’s recovery and staked his entire campaign on it,” top Fetterman campaign aide Rebecca Katz said in a statement.
“It’s not easy recovering from a stroke in public — let alone doing it while running in the top Senate race in the country — but John has worked hard to get here, and it shows,” Katz said.
The doctor’s note said that he was in contact with Fetterman’s neurologist and cardiologist.
Dr. Ramesh Chandra, of Alliance Cardiology in Pittsburgh, wrote shortly after the stroke that he had diagnosed Fetterman with atrial fibrillation in 2017, but that Fetterman did not see any doctor for five years and did not take his prescribed medications.
“I didn’t do what the doctor told me. But I won’t make that mistake again,” Fetterman said through his campaign in June.
Chandra also wrote at that time that if Fetterman “takes his medications, eats healthy, and exercises, he’ll be fine” and “should be able to campaign and serve in the U.S. Senate without a problem.”
Chen’s note, dated Saturday, appears to hold the same optimism about Fetterman’s recovery.
“His communication is significantly improved compared to his first visit assisted by speech therapy which he has attended on a regular basis since the stroke,” Chen wrote.
Fetterman’s physical exam was normal and his lab results were good, the doctor said, adding that he “takes appropriate medications to optimize his heart condition and prevent future strokes” and “exercises routinely.”
“Overall, Lt. Governor Fetterman is well and shows strong commitment to maintaining good fitness and health practices. He has no work restrictions and can work full duty in public office,” Chen said.