Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman released a letter Wednesday from a doctor who claimed the commonwealth’s lieutenant governor has “no work restrictions” after suffering a stroke in May — but failed to disclose he donated hundreds of dollars to the candidate after becoming his primary care physician.
Dr. Clifford Chen wrote in the letter, dated Oct. 15, that Fetterman was “recovering well from his stroke and his health has continued to improve” — and that he “can work full duty in public office.”
What Chen did not say, and what Federal Election Commission records show, is that he donated to Fetterman’s campaign on at least four separate occasions.
The first donation from Chen, of $500, was made back in June 2021, 11 months before Fetterman suffered his stroke in the same week he won a convincing victory in the Democratic primary.
Chen donated another $500 to Fetterman’s campaign on July 8 of this year and ponied up another $230 on July 28. The fourth and final known donation from Chen, of $100, went through on Sept. 23.
FEC records also show that Chen has donated more than $2,000 to Democratic organizations this year, including the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The letter noted that Chen became Fetterman’s primary care physician in May, though it was not clear whether that happened before or after the stroke.
Fetterman’s Republican opponent, celebrity heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, has repeatedly pressed Fetterman to release his medical records, saying that Pennsylvania voters deserve to know whether his opponent is capable of carrying out the duties of a senator.
Rachel Tripp, Oz’s senior communications adviser, called Chen’s assessment of Fetterman “good news.”
“And now that he apparently is healthy, he can debate for 90 minutes, start taking live questions from voters and reporters, and do a second debate now too,” Tripp said in a statement.
The two candidates are scheduled to face off for the first — and possibly only time — on Tuesday.
The letter was released days after Fetterman granted an interview to NBC News in which he used a closed-captioning monitor to read questions, prompting fresh concern about his cognitive abilities.
In the interview, Fetterman at times stumbled over his words, at one point struggling to pronounce “empathetic” and using the moment as an example of the stroke’s lingering effects.
NBC News’ Dasha Burns, who conducted the sit down, told MSNBC host Katy Tur that Fetterman could understand the questions once he read the monitor and noted he also had “some problems, some challenges with speech.”
“Just in some of the small talk prior to the interview, before the closed captioning was up and running, it did seem that he had a hard time understanding our conversation,” Burns said.
In response, Fetterman’s wife Gisele accused Burns of being “ableist” and called on her and NBC to apologize.
Chen said in his letter that Fetterman’s speech was normal, but he “continues to exhibit symptoms of an auditory processing disorder which can come across as hearing difficulty. Occasional words he will ‘miss’ which seems like he doesn’t hear the word but it is actually not processed properly.”
“His hearing of sound such as music is not affected,” the doctor added.