Fetterman addresses stroke, targets Dr. Oz at Pittsburgh rally: 'Every now and then I might miss a word'

Fetterman said he has trouble with 'auditory processing sometimes' but mocked Oz's viral grocery mix-up

Pennsylvania Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman used his stroke recovery to target his Republican opponent during a rally Saturday, joking that he has an excuse for his verbal mix-ups while mocking Dr. Mehmet Oz's viral mispronunciation of a grocery store chain.

"As you know, I had a stroke," Fetterman told a crowd in Pittsburgh during a rally. "Oh and I'm so grateful to be here today now after surviving that better and better, you know?"

Fetterman, the current lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, has taken criticism for not being open about his health since his May stroke, which occurred days before he handily won the Democratic nomination for Senate. Oz and others have raised questions about whether the 52-year-old former mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, is up to the task of serving in the Senate. 

"You know, the only lingering issue that I have after that stroke is sometimes auditory processing, sometimes. And, every now and then, I might miss a word or, sometimes, you know, I might mush two words together," Fetterman said before bringing up a video of Oz that his campaign has mocked all summer.

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John Fetterman, lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and Democratic senate candidate

John Fetterman, lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and Democratic senate candidate (Michelle Gustafson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

"Let me give you an example. OK, now imagine, let's assume, I maybe want to go shopping at Wegmans, and I'm actually standing in a Redner's, but I actually think I'm shopping in Wegner's. That's what it's like to kind of mush two words together, but something that doesn't really exist. Thank you, Dr. Oz, for that," Fetterman said.

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In a now-famous video — which Oz tweeted in early April, before the Pennsylvania primaries and before Fetterman's stroke — Oz can be seen in a grocery store lambasting inflation and the high cost of vegetables that he said he needed for a crudité platter. 

Fetterman's campaign circulated the video this summer, frequently using it to paint Oz as out of touch for using the word crudité instead of the more common phrase "veggie tray." Fetterman's campaign even sells campaign merchandise based on the incident. Fetterman said Saturday he needed to look up the word when he first saw the video.

"How many of you, how many have you ever heard the word crudités? Anyone? Anyone ever heard it?" Fetterman said. "I actually thought it was about my stroke. … I had to Google it to find out what it is."

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Pennsylvania Senate Democratic nominee John Fetterman and Pennsylvania Senate GOP nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Pennsylvania Senate Democratic nominee John Fetterman and Pennsylvania Senate GOP nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz. (Mark Makela, Hannah Beier/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

After Fetterman said he would not participate in an early September debate due to his continued stroke recovery, Oz accused his opponent of being in too poor health to serve in the Senate or too scared to present his views to voters. The pair have agreed to one debate, scheduled weeks before the Nov. 8 midterm election.

"John Fetterman has been ducking, dodging these debates, which is insulting to the voters of Pennsylvania," Oz told Fox News Digital last month. "And he has to own the reasons for his desire to avoid a debate with me. Either he's healthy, which he says he is, and doesn't want to answer for his radical positions in past statements, or he's lying about his health. Either way, the voters of Pennsylvania deserve an answer, and I think they deserve that answer pretty quickly, since the absentee ballots will be mailed out in the next two to three weeks."

Fetterman has attempted to brush off criticism of his health as unfair and out of place for a physician.

"Dr. Oz never stops reminding everybody that I had a stroke. Yeah. In fact, I'm sure there's probably at least one person here that are filming it. Trying to have me miss some words on video. What an inspiring campaign for you. Dr. Oz," Fetterman said Saturday.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, professor of surgery, Columbia University, speaks onstage during the 2021 Concordia Annual Summit

Dr. Mehmet Oz, professor of surgery, Columbia University, speaks onstage during the 2021 Concordia Annual Summit (Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)

The Senate race in Pennsylvania has tightened considerably in the past few weeks after Fetterman appeared the favorite earlier in the summer, according to public opinion polls. A Fox News poll released Wednesday showed Fetterman ahead of Oz by 45%-41%. A four-point edge is within the poll’s margin of sampling error and down from an 11-point advantage in late July.

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This week, Fetterman has put out several fundraising calls warning that Oz was closing in on him in the polls. 

"Dr. Oz is catching up to me in the polls. Seriously, he's only three points behind within the margin of error," Fetterman tweeted Saturday.