Dem Senate candidate Fetterman says ‘I agree with’ cutting prison population by one-third in unearthed clip

Fetterman camp recently accused Republican opponent Mehmet Oz of lying in ads citing Fetterman’s beliefs

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. and Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman said he agreed with reducing the state’s prison population by one-third in an unearthed 2020 clip after his campaign recently accused Republican opponent Mehmet Oz of lying in ads citing Fetterman’s beliefs.

Earlier this month, Oz’s campaign released an ad saying, "John Fetterman wants to release one-third of prisoners and eliminate life sentences for murderers." 

The Fetterman campaign asked TV stations not to run the ad due to "blatant lies and misinformation." 

"It’s hard to fit two different lies into a 15-second campaign ad, but we’ve learned to never underestimate Dr. Oz’s ability to mislead the American people," Fetterman campaign spokesman Joe Calvello told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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John Fetterman, lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and Democratic Senate candidate, speaks during a campaign event in Lebanon, Pa., April 30, 2022. 

John Fetterman, lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and Democratic Senate candidate, speaks during a campaign event in Lebanon, Pa., April 30, 2022.  (Michelle Gustafson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Despite the campaign’s claims, Fox News Digital has uncovered at least three previously unreported instances of Fetterman expressing support for reducing the prison population by one-third.

In a virtual panel discussing the Pennsylvania prison system Oct. 7, 2020, Fetterman stated, "I was on a panel with Secretary Wetzel earlier, before the pandemic hit, and he said something remarkable that I agree with. He said, 'We could reduce our prison population by a third and not make anyone less safe in Pennsylvania.’ And that’s a profound statement."

In July 2020, Fetterman tweeted, "We could reduce our state prison population by 1/3, make us *no* less safe + save $1B a year."

In April 2020, PennLive reported that "Fetterman said the state could cut its inmate population by one-third by releasing non-violent offenders and older convicts."

PolitiFact tackled Oz’s framing of Fetterman’s views in July, rating it "mostly false." At the time, PolitiFact analyzed a digital ad from the Oz campaign that said, "John Fetterman wants to release one-third of dangerous criminals back into our communities."

To back up its claim, Oz’s campaign referred PolitiFact to a June 22 Daily Caller article that referenced two tweets from Fetterman.

In May 2020, Fetterman tweeted: "PA’s Correction Secretary has said: ‘We could reduce our prison population by 1/3 and not make anyone less safe.’" 

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In July 2020, he tweeted: "Our Corrections Secretary has said we could [release] 1/3 of our inmates and not make anyone less safe."

Both tweets had clearly referenced comments allegedly from former Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel, which PolitiFact noted. The outlet made no mention of Fetterman’s comments actually endorsing the idea when it rated Oz’s claims mostly false.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for the state's U.S. Senate seat, speaks during a rally in Erie, Pa., Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. 

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for the state's U.S. Senate seat, speaks during a rally in Erie, Pa., Friday, Aug. 12, 2022.  (AP)

Fetterman’s campaign spokesman told PolitiFact at the time that Fetterman was not expressing an opinion on releasing one-third of its inmates but was citing Wetzel’s comments to highlight the cost of Pennsylvania’s prison system

However, PolitiFact could not find an instance in which Wetzel made the comments.

"In 2020, [Fetterman] twice highlighted what he said was a comment by Pennsylvania’s corrections secretary that the state’s prison population could be reduced by one-third without a risk to public safety," the outlet concluded. "But Fetterman did not directly express an opinion on releasing prisoners and did not indicate he supported releasing dangerous ones."

Mehmet Oz, celebrity physician and U.S. Republican Senate candidate for Pennsylvania, speaks during a town hall in Bell Blue, Pa., May 16, 2022.

Mehmet Oz, celebrity physician and U.S. Republican Senate candidate for Pennsylvania, speaks during a town hall in Bell Blue, Pa., May 16, 2022. (Rachel Wisniewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The second claim in Oz’s ad, that Fetterman wants to eliminate life sentences for murderers, is also disputed by the Fetterman campaign. PolitiFact rated the claim "mostly false" this month, saying it was "similarly distorted" like the one-third claim.

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Fetterman does, in fact, want to eliminate mandatory life-without-parole sentences for inmates convicted of second-degree murder, but PolitiFact said Oz’s claim "contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression."

Fetterman’s campaign spokesman sent a statement to Fox News Digital further denying that Fetterman ever expressed support for reducing the state's inmates by one-third.

"In all the tweets and statements you're referencing, John does not say he supports releasing one-third of Pennsylvania’s inmates," Calvello wrote. "And John does not support releasing 1/3 of all inmates. Nothing you mentioned contradicts the independent fact checker PolitiFact's ruling that called this claim mostly false.

"And to be clear, you are going to say that the non-partisan and independent Politifact got it wrong?" he asked.