Pa. Senate race: Oz challenges Dem opponent Fetterman to 5 debates
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is making a slow return to campaign trail after sitting on the sidelines since suffering a serious stroke days before the primary in May.
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Dr. Mehmet Oz, the one-time TV doctor currently running as the GOP candidate for the Senate in Pennsylvania, has challenged Democratic opponent John Fetterman to a series of five moderated debates.
Oz's challenge is an attempt to address Fetterman's absence from the campaign trail as he recovers from a serious stroke that he suffered days before the May primary. Oz's request for a handful of face-offs occurred on the same day that Fetterman is scheduled to host a public rally — his first since his stroke — in Erie, Pa.
"I've officially committed to 5 moderated debates across Pennsylvania," Oz tweeted Friday. "Fetterman has agreed to 0. It's time for Fetterman to show up. Pennsylvanians deserve to hear from their candidates."
The Democratic lieutenant governor's office indicated that he would be open to debates with Oz but did not specify how many or when they would occur. In a statement to NBC News, a spokesperson for Fetterman called Oz's challenge an "obvious and pathetic attempt to change the subject during yet another bad week."
"John is up for debating Oz — but we're not going to do this on Oz's terms," Fetterman campaign strategist Rebecca Katz told NBC. "A millionaire celebrity like Dr. Oz is probably used to pushing people around and getting his own way, but he's not going to be able to bully John Fetterman."
Days before winning the nomination in Pennsylvania, Fetterman was hospitalized for a stroke that almost killed him. Despite the admission that he "almost died," Fetterman argues that his health will not hinder him from fulfilling potential Senate duties.
Despite his significant absence from the campaign trail, Fetterman has maintained a a sizable lead over Oz in polls and has benefitted from facetious ads that criticize his opponent for being a resident of New Jersey.