Fetterman (D), who originally underestimated the severity of the blow just before the primary election in May and has been slowly getting back on the campaign trail, said earlier this month that he is “grateful” to be alive. On Wednesday, he said the comment from his Republican foe, who hosted a reality show giving medical advice, had drawn the race to a new rhetorical level.
“I had a stroke. I survived it,” Fetterman said in a statement. “I know politics can be bad, but even then, I could never imagine making fun of someone for their health challenges.”
In addition to that statement, Fetterman’s campaign on Wednesday was also released a letter of more than 100 doctors in the state criticized Oz for what they said is his history of “promoting unproven, ill-advised and sometimes potentially dangerous treatments.”
“As a celebrity TV 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 treatments for Covid-19.
In one report released Wednesday, the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis said White House officials and outside allies like Oz also pressured federal officials in 2020 to authorize hydroxychlorine as a treatment for the coronavirus.
The latest clash between Fetterman and Oz comes as Democrats seek to maintain their slim grip on the Senate in midterm elections, which have historically seen losses for the party that controls the White House. Oz narrowly won the Republican nomination thanks in part to his personal wealth and an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.
The candidates have exchanged barbs in public statements and through social networks. Fetterman’s team sought to portray Oz as a wealthy New Jersey pickpocket; Team Oz is portraying Fetterman as a soft-on-crime, sanctuary city supporting socialist.
Race memes have, at times, produced unintentionally hilarious moments and helped increase the perception that momentum it’s with Fetterman. In April, Oz was released a video where, in an attempt to discuss inflation, he bought vegetables in a supermarket. “That’s $20 per gross!” Oz said in the video.
The video later went viral after viewers noticed that Oz said he had shopped at a “Wegner’s,” which doesn’t exist but looked like a combination of Redner’s and Wegman’s supermarkets, and that most people would call what he was putting together, simply, like 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. Meanwhile, Fetterman has capitalized on it, saying his campaign has raised half a million dollars for the video, including $65,000 from a poster with the words: “Wegners: Let Them Eat Crudite.”
Fetterman also mocked Oz after The Daily Beast reveals he owns 10 properties, instead of the two he had publicly admitted.
Oz defended himself by saying he bought his homes with his own money — a blow to Fetterman, who relied on substantial financial help from his family until he became lieutenant governor in 2019.
Both are running for the seat held by Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), who is retiring at the end of his term.