John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate for US Senate in Pennsylvania, might not have had a stroke if he “had ever eaten a vegetable in his life”, an aide to the Republican candidate, Mehmet Oz, said on Tuesday in a strikingly nasty moment in an already bitter contest.
The statement, to Business Insider, came in response to Fetterman’s mockery of a video in which Oz complains about the price of crudités while mangling the names of two Pennsylvania grocery stores.
“In PA we call this a … veggie tray,” Fetterman tweeted.
In full, Rachel Tripp, Oz’s senior communications adviser, said: “If John Fetterman had ever eaten a vegetable in his life, then maybe he wouldn’t have had a major stroke and wouldn’t be in the position of having to lie about it constantly.”
Fetterman, 53, and currently lieutenant governor, is 6ft 8in, and once weighed more than 400lbs. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, reporting in 2018, he “changed the way he ate, cutting out grains and sugar … started walking more and dropped about 10 to 12lbs a month”, getting “down to 270lbs”.
Fetterman suffered a stroke in May, then returned to the trail this month.
He has admitted to challenges in regaining his health, telling a CBS affiliate this month: “I’ll miss a word sometimes, or I might mush two words together sometimes in a conversation, but that’s really the only issue, and it’s getting better and better every day.”
Oz, 62, is a heart surgeon turned longtime, if controversial, presence on daytime TV, having confessed to promoting “quack” diet pills.
After moving into politics he was endorsed by Donald Trump, who said being on “TV is like a poll, that means people like you”.
But Oz has faced questions including where he lives – opponents including Fetterman claim he lives in New Jersey, he insists he lives in Pennsylvania – and how, given that Oz has said he owns two houses while the Daily Beast reports he owns 10.
Tripp’s statement about Fetterman’s lifestyle was prompted by an Insider investigation into Oz’s move into politics.
The Pennsylvania race is one of a handful most observers think will decide control of the Senate. Fetterman leads by more than 10 points, according to fivethirtyeight.com.
Senate Republicans reportedly have doubts about Oz’s chances, and have diverted money to other key races.
According to Rolling Stone, Trump told confidants Oz would “fucking lose” unless he turns his campaign around. Trump denied the remark.