Two doctors on CNN’s “New Day” Wednesday morning defended Democratic Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman, after viewers of Tuesday night’s debate reacted to Fetterman’s halting speech and verbal missteps.
Dr. Tara Narula, a cardiologist and CNN medical correspondent, suggested voters concerned about Fetterman’s health were just “uncomfortable” with watching “somebody recovering from a stroke in public.” During the 7:00 a.m. ET hour, she argued that neurologically, Fetterman’s difficulties with speaking do not correlate with his ability to understand or make decisions.
“It’s not affecting your motor function. It’s not affecting your cognitive function. So I think we need to separate out these two things. So while somebody may have difficulty understanding or speaking that does not necessarily translate to their ability to make decisions or to, you know, their intelligence level or anything having to do with their cognition,” she said.
While admitting he did have other health concerns, Narula said it was “apparent” his cognition was intact as he was “understanding and able to answer questions” during the debate. She cited The Atlantic’s headline that the Pennsylvania debate was a “Rorschach test” for America’s “comfort level with disability.”
“I think that’s true,” she remarked. “It’s going to be a question of how comfortable we are with being able to see somebody get up and talk in this way. That’s not something we normally see with a politician,” she stated.
Dr. Kevin Sheth, Professor of Neurology at Yale School of Medicine made some of the same arguments in the 8:00 a.m. ET hour of the show. He repeatedly hailed the Democrat’s “remarkable” performance against Oz.
“What to me is quite remarkable even a few months after his stroke, while he’s clearly working through some challenges with his speech and language, he’s actually able to hold his own in a debate and go toe to toe on a number of topics and able to answer questions. And I think that’s actually quite remarkable and shows what the brain is capable of,” Sheth reacted.
CNN pressed Sheth to address voters concerned that Fetterman will not release his medical records. The doctor defended this decision by arguing that other candidates and elected politicians have had neurological injuries as well. He called the Democrat “transparent” for just participating in the debate with Oz.
“[I]n some ways just participating in the debate and being on stage is a way of disclosing and being transparent what he is and is not able to do,” he argued.
Like the previous medical expert, Sheth also downplayed concerns about Fetterman’s health, after the candidate had a few noticeable gaffes during the debate. Sheth argued speech difficulties did not “translate” to “actual cognition or thinking.”
Instead, he praised the Democrat’s “remarkable” recovery and “transparency.”
“I would say the glass half full part, is that actually it was remarkable that in a very pressured public setting he was able to go for a significant period of time and answer a lot of questions. In some ways, that’s quite remarkable. Having slight missteps or some missteps in some of his words, of course, that probably is attributable to the recovery process following a stroke, but in some ways he’s been very transparent in actually showing people what he can and cannot do. I don’t think it necessarily reflects his underlying cognition regarding that.”
Tuesday afternoon, a CNN panel lowered the bar for what to expect in the debate, with one panelist arguing that Fetterman only needed to appear “relatively coherent.”