(CNN)Mehmet Oz, the Republican Senate nominee in Pennsylvania, joined with the commonwealth’s retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey on Tuesday to accuse Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate, of either exaggerating his health issues following a stroke in May or, if he is telling the truth, potentially being physically unfit to serve.
“It’s clear that he’s being dishonest,” Toomey said of Fetterman, while also criticizing the Democrat for not yet committing to debating Oz. “He’s either not as well as he claims to be or he’s afraid to be called out for the radical policies he supports. It’s one or the other.”
Fetterman and his campaign have said that the candidate is on the road to a full recovery but is currently experiencing issues with “auditory processing,” which his doctors say will improve with time.
The Pennsylvania Senate seat is a top pickup opportunity for Democrats, who are defending their slim majority in the chamber this fall. The state narrowly voted for Joe Biden in 2020, four years after voters there narrowly backed Donald Trump.
Oz and Toomey in their remarks Tuesday sought to strike a balance between pointed criticism of Fetterman and repeated notes of empathy — a clear effort to step back from the Oz campaign’s recent ridicule of the Democrat, including mocking comments about Fetterman’s diet. Their side-by-side appearance, in which they spoke in grave tones about the risks of electing Fetterman, underscored a sense that the Oz campaign’s recent volley of attacks had backfired.
The Fetterman campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this most recent broadside. But after a similar attempt by Oz last week to soften his tone, Fetterman senior adviser Rebecca Katz called on Oz to either “stand by” his campaign’s attacks or “denounce them.”
Katz has also accused Oz of “deliberately conflating two separate things — John’s health and this last lingering effect of the stroke.”
“John Fetterman is healthy,” she said. “He is sharp. He is funny. He is on it.”
Dispute over debates
Oz on Tuesday again tried to pitch Fetterman’s refusal, thus far, to commit to a debate as evidence that the Democrat was misleading voters.
“This is not about health, this is about honesty,” the celebrity doctor said. “It’s either John Fetterman is physically capable of debating and is not debating because he doesn’t want to own the statements that he’s made, the radical left statements that he’s made about so many issues, or he’s lying about his health.”
Oz added that while he has “tremendous empathy” for his opponent’s situation and recovery process, “it is still up to John Fetterman to stand up and answer questions. He cannot dodge the voters of Pennsylvania.”
The pile-on included repeated references by Toomey to Fetterman’s online presence over the past few months. The senator spoke about his time in the US Senate and suggested that anything less than a fully fit Fetterman would not be able to properly handle the job.
“You can’t do the job of US senator sitting at home firing off snarky tweets,” Toomey said.
Even as Oz and Toomey presented a united front Tuesday in their criticism of Fetterman, they diverged over Trump. Toomey was one of seven GOP senators to join Democrats in voting to convict the former President at his second impeachment trial. Oz, responding to a reporter’s question, said he would not have done the same. He also said that, like Toomey, he would not have objected to certifying the 2020 election results.
Toomey also steered clear of the open Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, in which state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a leading 2020 election denier who was pictured outside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, won the GOP nomination. Toomey avoided a question about whether he would endorse Mastriano, instead saying his focus would remain on Oz’s race and other House contests.