Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania will return to the Senate in a few weeks following inpatient treatment for clinical depression at Walter Reed Military Medical Center on Wednesday evening.
His aides said he would return in a few weeks, while Fetterman’s chief of staff, Adam Jentleson added, “In Senate time, which is a bit like geologic time, John’s time away will be the blink of an eye.”
Similarly, Manuel Bonder, press secretary for Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro said: “The governor admires Senator Fetterman taking care of his mental health and looks forward to him being back in the Senate representing Pennsylvania.”
Fetterman’s health has been under the microscope ever since he had a stroke days before the primary election in May. Many sitting members of Congress have suffered from a stroke—including New Mexico Senator Ben Ray Luján, Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen and Illinois Senator Mark Kirk—and even more have suffered from illnesses—most recently, Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin disclosed he was diagnosed with cancer. Mental health is a whole other animal, riddled with even more stigma, but still, Fetterman is not the first politician to experience it while holding office.
Perhaps what sets Fetterman apart, then, is that he has been on the defensive about his health before he was even elected. (Not to mention he flipped a high-profile Senate seat.) His rival, Dr. Mehmet Oz made Fetterman’s health a fixture in his campaign against Fetterman.
Oz’s senior communications adviser, Rachel Tripp, was caught saying: “If John Fetterman had ever eaten a vegetable in his life, then maybe he wouldn’t have had a major stroke and wouldn’t be in the position of having to lie about it constantly.”
This focus magnified as the debate approached, when Oz’s campaign communications director Brittany Yanick also said, “If John is too sick to debate and is concerned he can not stand in front of cameras for more than 10 minutes, then he should just say so.”
Fetterman defended himself, tweeting: “I had a stroke. I survived it. I’m truly so grateful to still be here today.” Not only did he participate in the debate, but he subsequently won the state by five percentage points.
Disclosing his health battles publicly has put Fetterman in a precarious position, making him the target of blatant criticism for calls to resign from the GOP and conservative pundits, but also paving the way for other politicians to speak about their own health concerns.
Notable conservative pundits not only criticized Fetterman, but also the Democratic party. After the news broke of the Pennsylvania senator’s hospitalization, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said, “It’s news to no one that John Fetterman is unfit to serve in the United States Senate—he was not fit to run for office.”
Conservative podcast host Ben Shapiro jumped into the conversation, tweeting: “There is no excuse other than pure power for Fetterman to remain a senator. A Democrat will replace him; the governor of PA is a Democrat. It is unconscionable for anyone, particularly family, to continue to put him in this position.”
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