The wife of Democratic Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman claimed “swimming in America is very racist” – as she likened her husband’s use of closed captioning to turning up the brightness on a smartphone.
“Historically, swimming in America is very racist, and usually when you look at drowning statistics, it usually affects children of color, because of lack of access,” Gisele Fetterman said on the iGen politics podcast on Thursday.
Gisele made the comments while discussing how she and her husband, Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, had decided not to move into the state-owned mansion in Harrisburg but made the pool accessible to the public.
The couple live in a converted loft in Braddock, which Fetterman’s Republican challenger Dr. Mehmet Oz’s campaign has claimed he bought for $1.
“And while we did not want the mansion, that mansion came with a pool I wanted,” Gisele told Jill Wine-Banks and Victor Shi on the show.
“And the dream was to make this a public pool and turn it into the people’s pool and ensure that young people across Pennsylvania could learn how to swim and water safety and kind of work to right some of the wrongs,” she added.
According to the lieutenant governor website, the official mansion has been sold since its pool was opened to the public for the first time in the summer of 2019.
“Second Lady Gisele Fetterman oversaw a program to teach water safety and offer novel exposure to swimming,” it says. It was not immediately clear if the pool is still open.
Public pools were often segregated during the Jim Crow era, when blacks were generally barred from using the facilities when they were used as cooling centers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more blacks tend to drown than whites.
“Drowning death rates for Black people are 1.5 times higher than the rates for White people. Disparities are highest among Black children ages 5-9 (rates 2.6 times higher) and ages 10-14 (rates 3.6 times higher),” the CDC says on its website.
“In swimming pools, Black children ages 10-14 years drown at rates 7.6 times higher than White children,” the agency adds.
“Black children and youth are more likely to drown in public pools, and white children and youth are more likely to drown in residential pools.”
The podcast interview was conducted after Fetterman’s troubling performance in the race’s lone debate against Oz before the Nov. 8 Senate election in Pennsylvania.
Fetterman’s lingering “auditory processing issues” following his May stroke were apparent during the showdown, where despite debating with the aid of two 70-inch TV monitors equipped with closed captioning — spelling out the moderators’ questions, and Oz’s responses — it was very unclear what the Keystone State’s lieutenant governor was trying to say at times.
In the podcast, Gisele defended her husband’s use of closed-captioning, arguing that it is akin to adjusting the brightness on your smartphone.
“Most people use accommodations on some level, whether that’s how bright you keep your phone when you’re reading. These are all accommodations,” she said.
“Maybe closed captioning is a new thing to them but I’ve been using closed captioning my whole life, I learned how to speak English watching ‘Mister Rogers’ and reading closed captions,” the second lady added.
Last week, President Joe Biden also raised eyebrows when he said that Gisele would be a “great lady in the Senate” — appearing to imply that her husband would be unable to serve due to his poor health.
“John, thank you very much for running, I really do appreciate it,” Biden said at an event in Pittsburgh. “And Gisele, you’re going to be a great, great lady in the Senate.”