The fallout from Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman’s (D) debate performance lit up social media Tuesday night with commentators from the across the political spectrum calling it an unmitigated disaster.
Fetterman has faced scrutiny over his fitness for office after he suffered a stroke earlier this year and has demonstrated that he sometimes struggles to understand words and has difficulty speaking and often needs conversations transcribed for him just to understand what is being said.
The two nominees exchanged barbs on a variety of topics, from abortion and crime to fracking and inflation, as the Democrat painted his opponent as a liar and the Republican argued that his rival is radically progressive. Fetterman faltered and provided choppy responses as Oz, a veteran television host, aggressively pressed his opponent and occasionally exceeded his time limits.
Oz, repeatedly raising examples of conversations he has shared with Pennsylvanians over the past several months, blasted Fetterman, who did not commit during the debate to releasing his medical records, on his absence from the campaign. In turn, Fetterman criticized Oz for his longtime residence in New Jersey. Even with a closed captioning system positioned behind the moderators designed to aid his auditory processing, Fetterman struggled to remain coherent.
The fallout from the debate was seen in betting markets, on cable news, and on social media with pundits with various views noting that Fetterman’s obvious health concerns will likely end up being a major factor in the outcome of the race.
“Even with the moderators constantly cutting Fetterman off to protect him from himself, there is nothing the media can do to spin this debate,” political strategist Andrew Surabian tweeted. “I have never seen someone so obviously mentally/physically unfit to serve in office than John Fetterman.”
PR executive Josh Holmes wrote: “I’ve honestly never seen anything like this. The partisanship required to vote for Fetterman at this point should be studied in a lab.”
“Just so we are all clear: that was Fetterman WITH weeks of prep and specialized computer assistance throughout,” former White House adviser Stephen Miller tweeted. “So what you just saw is the very, very best Fetterman can do. Which is terrifying.”
“Holy s***, Fetterman is fried,” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted.
“Tap out, @JohnFetterman,” former Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell tweeted. “This is hard to watch.”
“This is not funny. It is not something to make fun of. It is genuinely upsetting,” political commentator Viva Frei tweeted. “And if Fetterman gets elected, it will show the degree to which Democrat voters are prepared to exploit vulnerable humans for political purposes.”
“The media protected this guy,” political commentator Mike Cernovich tweeted. “There’s no bottom.”
TIME Magazine reporter Charlotte Alter tweeted: “I spoke to Fetterman recently, and I expected him to be very bad tonight. But he was much much worse than I expected.”
Media analyst Joe Concha tweeted: “It’s hard to see this race not changing decidedly after just 20 minutes into this debate. Some of Fetterman’s statements simply don’t make any sense.”
“John Fetterman’s ability to communicate is seriously impaired,” MSNBC News Joe Scarborough tweeted. “Pennsylvania voters will be talking about this obvious fact even if many in the media will not.”
“This is painful to watch regardless of one’s politics,” Scarborough added.
“That #PASenateDebate was painful to watch,” British commentator Piers Morgan tweeted. “I feel very sorry for John Fetterman that he suffered a stroke, but it is cruel of his team to expose him to such ridicule when he is clearly unfit to either take part in TV debates or be a fully-functional senator. He should withdraw.”
“This is the worst performance by any candidate I have ever seen in any debate,” sports commentator Clay Travis tweeted. “If this were a boxing match they would throw the towel in. This is sad. @JohnFetterman’s entire campaign should be ashamed for letting this happen.”
Ben Zeisloft contributed to this report.