Fetterman (D), who initially downplayed the severity of the stroke just before the primary in May and has slowly been making his way back to the campaign trail, said earlier this month that he is “grateful” to be alive. On Wednesday he said that the comment from his Republican foe, who hosted a reality show dispensing medical advice, has pulled the race to a new rhetorical low.
“I had a stroke. I survived it,” Fetterman said in a statement. “I know politics can be nasty, but even then, I could never imagine ridiculing someone for their health challenges.”
In addition to that statement, Fetterman’s campaign on Wednesday also released a letter from more than 100 physicians in the state criticizing Oz for what they said is his history of “promoting unproven, ill-advised, and at times potentially dangerous treatments.”
“As a TV celebrity doctor, Mehmet Oz has displayed 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 cures and in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic suggested chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as treatment for covid-19.
In a report released Wednesday, the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis said White House officials and outside allies such as Oz also pressed federal officials in 2020 to authorize hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment.
The latest clash between Fetterman and Oz comes as Democrats seek to hold onto their razor-thin control of the Senate in the midterm elections, which historically have seen loses for the party that controls the White House. Oz narrowly won the Republican nomination thanks in part to his personal fortune and an endorsement from former president Donald Trump.
The candidates have traded barbs in public statements and through social media. Fetterman’s team has sought to portray Oz as a rich carpetbagger from New Jersey; Team Oz is depicting Fetterman as a soft-on-crime, sanctuary-city supporting socialist.
The memes of the race have, at times, produced unintentionally hilarious moments, and has helped boost the perception that momentum is with Fetterman. In April, Oz released a video where, in an attempt to discuss inflation, purchased vegetables at a supermarket. “That’s $20 for crudite!” Oz said in the video.
The video later went viral after viewers noted Oz said he had been shopping in a “Wegner’s,” which doesn’t exist but sounded like a combination of supermarkets Redner’s and Wegman’s, and that most people would call what he was putting together, simply, as a vegetable tray.
The Oz campaign, in its criticism of Fetterman’s eating habits on Tuesday, has kept the issue alive for more than a week. Fetterman, meanwhile, has capitalized on it, saying his campaign has raised half a million dollars over the video, including $65,000 from a sticker with the words: “Wegners: Let them eat Crudite.”
Fetterman also mocked Oz after the Daily Beast revealed he owns 10 properties, instead of the two he had publicly acknowledged.
Oz defended himself by saying he purchased his houses with his own money — a swipe at Fetterman, who relied on significant financial assistance from his family until becoming lieutenant governor in 2019.
The two are vying for the seat held by Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), who is retiring at the end of his term.