Oz distances himself from his own campaign's attacks on Fetterman's health: 'I can only speak to what I'm saying'

·3 min read
Oz at campaign rally in front of signs saying his name, holding a microphone
Republican US Senate candidate Mehmet Oz holds a rally in the Tunkhanock Triton Hose Co fire station in Tunkhanock, PA, on Thursday, August 18, 2022.Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
  • The campaign of Dr. Mehmet Oz has attacked his Democratic rival over suffering a stroke.

  • "If John Fetterman had ever eaten a vegetable in his life, then maybe he wouldn't have had a major stroke," a spokesperson told Insider.

  • In a radio interview, Oz said he "can only speak to what I'm saying."

For weeks, the campaign of Dr. Mehmet Oz has been labelling Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman a "basement bum" for taking time off the campaign trail to recover from a stroke, arguing that he's dodging debates and questions over his record.

That line of attack escalated earlier this month when a spokesperson for Oz, the celebrity doctor turned Republican candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania, told Insider that his Democratic rival was to blame for his health problems.

"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," Rachel Tripp, Oz's senior communications advisor, said in a statement.

On Tuesday, Oz tried to distance himself from that argument.

In an interview that aired on KDKA, a Pittsburgh radio station, he was asked if such an attack is "appropriate."

"The campaign's been saying lots of things, both of them," Oz responded. "My position is: I can only speak to what I'm saying."

Oz went on to argue that Fetterman, who recently returned to hosting campaign rallies after suffering the stroke in May, "should be allowed to recover fully and I will support his ability as someone who has gone through a difficult time." The issue, he maintained, is the need to give voters a chance to see the two men debate.

"Democracy is built on hearing what your candidates believe in," Oz said.

Oz is speaking this weekend at a rally outside Scranton with former President Donald Trump, who endorsed him during the GOP primary. Trump has continued to falsely claim the 2020 election was stolen — and, after Pennsylvania's 2022 primary, counseled Oz to follow his own example and simply "declare victory" before ballots were finished being counted.

The Fetterman campaign, in a statement, accused Oz of playing both sides, allowing his campaign to go low while he tries to maintain decorum.

"Either stand by the shitty things your campaign is saying on your behalf or denounce them," Rebecca Katz, a senior advisor to Fetterman, said in a statement. "Instead of trying to weasel out of these cynical, heartless, and out of touch statements, let's hear you defend them — or disavow them straight up."

At a press conference in Philadelphia earlier this month, Dr. Val Arkoosh, who is supporting Fetterman, said the Oz campaign's health-related attacks were "disgusting."

"No real doctor — or any decent human being, to be honest — would ever mock a stroke victim who is recovering from that stroke in the way that Dr. Oz is mocking John Fetterman," she said.

The Oz campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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