Democratic Pennsylvania Senate nominee John Fetterman announced on Wednesday that he will take part in a televised debate on Oct. 25 in Harrisburg, Pa.
The debate will be hosted by The Hill’s parent company Nexstar Media Group. The debate will air on Nexstar stations WPXI in Pittsburgh, WHTM in Harrisburg/Lancaster/Lebanon/York, WPHL in Philadelphia, WTAJ in Johnstown/Altoona/State College, WBRE and WYOU in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, WJET and WFXP in Erie, and WYTV in Youngstown, Ohio.
The development comes as Fetterman faces growing pressure to debate Oz. The Republican has called on Fetterman to participate in a series of debates beginning this month. On Tuesday, the Republican Senate candidate used a joint press conference with retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) to call on the lieutenant governor to debate the celebrity doctor.
Fetterman has been in the process of recovering from a stroke he suffered last May. Critics have pointed to the stroke as a potential reason as to why Fetterman was slow to commit to a debate. On Wednesday, Fetterman’s campaign echoed the Democrat’s commitment to debate, which he spoke about last week in an interview with Politico.
“We said from the start that we’d do a debate, which John reiterated very clearly again last week. Enough distractions, it’s time to talk about the issues,” said Rebecca Katz, a senior adviser to the Fetterman campaign. “While John will be debating Dr. Oz next month, Oz doesn’t have to wait that long to be honest with Pennsylvania voters about where he really stands on abortion. It’s a simple question, doctor: Would you vote for the Republicans’ national abortion ban, or would you vote against it?”
Oz’s campaign issued a statement on Wednesday saying they would commit to the debate if a moderator explained to the audience that Fetterman was using a closed captioning system during the debate, that any questions posed by Nexstar employees during practice debates “bear zero resemblance to the actual questions asked during the debate,” and that the debate would be extended from 60 min to 90 minutes.
Oz’s campaign manager Casey Contres issued a statement saying the campaign would call for more debates.
“Today, after being hit with massive criticism from state and national editorials and commentators for ducking, John Fetterman finally agreed to one debate…that was originally scheduled for October 5th. It’s a debate that Fetterman insisted be delayed until only two weeks remain in the campaign, to keep voters in the dark as long as possible,” Contres said. “And it’s a debate in which Fetterman insisted on accommodations for his health condition, accommodations that are not permitted on the U.S. Senate floor. Doctor Oz looks forward to being in Harrisburg on October 25th to share his vision for a better Pennsylvania and America, and he is ready expose Fetterman’s record as the most radical far-left senate candidate in America.”
Polls show Fetterman leading the Senate race, with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report recently moving the race’s rating from “toss up” to “lean Democrat.”