The wife of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman has spoken out to defend her husband after an NBC reporter noted that he exhibited “auditory processing problems” during a recent interview.
On Tuesday, John Fetterman, the current lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, conducted an interview with NBC News’ Dasha Burns. During the interview, Fetterman used closed captioning on a nearby computer screen so he could understand the questions he was asked – an arrangement made for him because he suffered a severe stroke about five months ago. Despite this precaution, he seemed to have a hard time communicating his thoughts during the interview, although Fetterman insisted that doctors said he had “no cognitive damage”
After the interview, Burns claimed, “In the small talk before the interview, without subtitles, it was not clear that he understood our conversation,” and that “I, my producer and our team found that the small talk before the subtitles was difficult because of these auditory processing problems.”
Now Gisele Fetterman, Fetterman’s wife, has taken aim at Burns for sharing those observations. Fetterman joined Molly Jong-Fast on the podcast Fast Politics Pod and discussed her reaction to Burns and the interview.
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“I do not like to say ‘anger’ because I think that’s a really unhealthy emotion, and when you feel something like that, you are only harming yourself,” Fetterman told Jong-Fast. “But I think [Burns] did a disservice not just to my husband, but to anyone who’s facing disability and has to deal with it.”
Fetterman then went on the offensive, suggesting that Burns should face professional “consequences” for her “best” comments.
“I don’t know how there can not be consequences, right?” she continued. “I mean, there are consequences for people in these positions who represent one of the -isms. I mean, she was the most capable and she was in her interview.
“It was horrific for the entire disability community and, I think, for journalism,” she added.
Fetterman then turned to NBC News and said that media outlets like NBC News “need to take responsibility” for instances of ableism, which she called “ably-ism.” She also expressed hope that NBC and/or Burns will soon apologize to her family and the “disability community.”
Despite harsh criticism from Ms. Fetterman and from other outlets, including the Associated Press, NBC News has defended Burns and her reporting. “Dasha is a widely respected reporter for the Pennsylvania Senate race and has covered the state extensively for most of the past year,” it said in a statement. “We stand behind her comprehensive coverage of all major aspects of this year’s Senate race.”