I have seen a lot of Ableism reporting about the Fetterman-Oz debate. Take this horrendous piece of reporting, for example, from senior political reporter at Huffington Post, Daniel Marans. John Fetterman Struggles To Defend Himself In Debate With Mehmet Oz (snippet):
Those struggles were apparent in Tuesday night’s debate while his Republican opponent, Mehmet Oz, showed his ease on TV, the medium that made him famous around America as “Dr. Oz.”
Dr. Oz, like Donald Trump, is a lifelong snake oil salesman, grifter and con man. Of course he is at ease on TV with the smooth lying of a smarmy politician and fraudster. These are not attributes which should be celebrated by political reporters. This is how the feckless media normalized the criminal Donald Trump in 2016, and gave us the national nightmare that we have been living ever since.
Dr. Oz is, in fact, such a well-known huckster that the U.S. Senate itself – the very chamber he's now running to sit in – once hauled him in to testify about his unsupported diet pill claims. Two years later he would settle a class action lawsuit for $5M. https://t.co/rQUsZGvEb9
— Jordan Fischer (@JordanOnRecord) November 30, 2021
As I have said before, I come from a family with a history of strokes. I have been around stroke victims all of my life, as a caregiver in some cases. I have seen everything from a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or “mini stroke,” to partial paralysis and aphasia (a language disorder caused by damage to a specific area of the brain that controls language expression and comprehension), to death. I have also seen full recoveries after several months of rehab.
From the debate I saw, John Fetterman is doing remarkably well for his short recovery time, and he appears to be capable to a full recovery. I wish him well. As Fetterman likes to say, “I’ll be better in January, but Oz will still be a fraud.”
MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell said it best in a commentary last night holding the “ableism” media accountable for their discrimination with a history lesson about Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, two of the world’s greatest leaders who would not survive in today’s hyper-partisan media environment.
Mary McNamara writes at the LA Times, ‘Women, doctors, local political leaders’: How Dr. Oz handed Democrats a path to victory:
As far as I can tell, two things happened during Tuesday night’s Senate-race debate between Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz: Fetterman reminded the audience that after five months, a stroke survivor often has auditory and speech issues that do not reflect cognitive ability, and Oz handed Democrats an attack line that may help them keep hold of the House and Senate.
A bit of a problem for Dr. Oz, since he is running as a Republican. In a race that could determine if the Republicans take the Senate.
Fetterman, who requested the aid of a text scroll, paused often while searching for words and garbled more than a few lines, including his greeting — he opened with “good night” when he clearly meant “good evening.” But nothing he said, didn’t say or said wrong came close to the shocking and potentially devastating impact of Dr. Oz’s response to a question about reproductive rights — which, he said, should be left to “women, doctors, local political leaders.”
Honestly, who cares that a man who recently survived a near-fatal stroke mistakenly said he didn’t “support the Supreme Court” when he clearly meant he didn’t support expanding the Supreme Court? The guy who never had a stroke, who’s a doctor for crying out loud, just blithely turned women’s health over to “local political leaders.”
Who does he even mean? State senators? Governors? Mayors? Water district supervisors? Coroners?
“Women” and “doctors” have made their feelings about reproductive rights very clear. According to the most recent Pew study, 63% of American women believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases; various studies reveal that the majority of doctors feel the same way.
Dr. Oz is not one of them. He has said he believes that life begins at conception and that all abortion is murder.
Unfortunately, what a woman or her doctors have to say about her reproductive health is moot if abortion is rendered illegal by “local political leaders” acting against the majority, as they have in multiple states since the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade this summer.
So what Dr. Oz is really saying is that a woman’s autonomy over her own body comes down to who gets chosen, every four years, in local races with notoriously low turnouts.
In case you were wondering why women fought so hard for the national right guaranteed by Roe vs. Wade, this is it.
In Pennsylvania, abortion is legal up to 23 weeks and six days from the date of the last menstrual cycle. But November’s governor race will decide if that remains the case. The Democratic nominee, Josh Shapiro, has vowed to keep the law as it is; his Republican opponent, Doug Mastriano, supports banning abortions after six weeks and charging women who defy that ban with murder.
So Oz is effectively telling Pennsylvania voters that if they want reproductive rights to be determined by women and doctors, they should vote for Shapiro — and is offering similar advice to voters in every other midterm election.
“Women, doctors, local political leaders.” One of these things is so not like the other that it would be laughable if it weren’t so god-awful serious and revealing.
I can’t think of a phrase that better captures the Republicans’ bald attempt at minority rule or their belief that, like biology, geography is destiny.
It’s a good thing Oz’s Hippocratic oath — you know, the one that includes “do no harm” — does not apply to his membership in the Republican Party. Neither Fetterman nor Oz have pulled any punches in their creatively contentious race, and after four years of President Trump openly mocking people with various disabilities, Oz’s very un-doctorly smirk every time Fetterman searched for a word or fumbled a sentence may not disturb others as much as it did me. (Though the smirks certainly did not support his claim that he will return civility to the public discourse.)
But handing the Democrats a line that cuts through all the purported concerns about sin and the unborn with the blatant admission that local politicians should have the final word in determining women’s reproductive health? Well, I can’t imagine too many GOP operatives are going to thank him for that.
It certainly gives Fetterman a chance to push back against the notion that he’s the one with the communication issues.
By the way, Fetterman Raised an ‘Unprecedented’ $2 Million in Less Than 24 Hours After the Debate (excerpt):
Following the debate, the national corporate media focused largely on Fetterman’s performance and health five months after he suffered a stroke, which has left him with auditory processing issues.
“This is a gigantic show of support for John and his debate performance,” said Brendan McPhillips, Fetterman’s campaign manager. “We’re honored and grateful for the support heading into the last two weeks of the race.”
The American people have empathy and compassion, something the quack Dr. Oz does not. I pity the people who have had the misfortune of being under his care. And the poor animals he experimented on.
BREAKING: Dr. Oz is a puppy killer. https://t.co/SXgRSUO2TK
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) October 3, 2022
The campaign said it is using its latest fundraising haul to air its new television ad focusing on Oz’s statement about abortion care. Fetterman has spent several weeks calling on Oz to tell voters whether he would support a 15-week nationwide abortion ban proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and following the debate, his campaign said the celebrity doctor “belongs nowhere near the U.S. Senate.”
“Our campaign will put this money behind making sure as many Pennsylvania women as possible hear Dr. Oz’s radical belief that ‘local political leaders’ should have a say in their personal healthcare decisions,” said McPhillips.
Earlier this month, Fetterman raised $1 million in one day after Republicans seized on an NBC News interview in which he used a closed captioning device, as he did during the debate. Experts on the effects of strokes say auditory processing difficulties do not denote necessarily cognitive issues, and Fetterman’s doctor released a statement last week saying he is able to “work full duty in public office” following the stroke.
Fetterman addressed more than 3,300 voters at a rally in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, speaking about abortion rights and his support for raising the minimum wage as well as the debate.
“I may not get every word the right way,” Fetterman said. “But I will always do the right thing in Washington, D.C. I have a lot of good days. And every now and then I’ll have a bad day. But every day I will always fight just for you.”
Referring to Oz’s statement about abortion rights, Fetterman added, “For some of the focus on the words that I miss, he really has to say that he had the worst line of that night.”
For more on the media’s ableism bias, see Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), Framing Disability as Disqualification in Fetterman/Oz Debate (snippet):
As disability rights activists argue, if a disability doesn’t impact someone’s cognitive functioning or ability to do their job, then highlighting it only stokes prejudice. Some thoughtful pieces were published drawing attention to ableism in media (e.g., Buzzfeed, 10/12/22; New York Times, 10/13/22; Slate, 10/14/22) , which offered ample opportunity for some introspection among political reporters.