John Fetterman’s wife blasted NBC’s Dasha Burns for her portrayal of a recent interview with the Pennsylvania US Senate candidate, accusing the reporter of “ableism” and calling her behavior “appalling.”
Speaking with Molly Jong-Fast on the Fast Politics PodGisele Fetterman said she felt “rage” when she learned that Burns had revealed that her husband was unable to hold a conversation.
The coverage did a disservice “to not only my husband, but anyone facing a disability and working through it,” she said.
Since suffering a stroke in May, Fetterman has struggled with auditory processing. The candidate’s staff required that he be allowed to use closed captioning technology during the interview. While introducing the segment featuring Burns’s interview with Fetterman, she noted that “in small talk before the interview without captioning, it wasn’t clear he was understanding our conversation.”
On Twitter, Burns responded to Swisher by arguing that “it’s possible for two different reporters to have two different experiences wa candidate. Our team was in the room w him & reported what happened in it, as journalists do. Before & after closed captioning was on.”
Then on NBC’s Today, Burns told Savannah Guthrie that “it’s important to note that according to the campaign itself, our team was first to be in the room with Fetterman for an interview rather than via video conference and myself, my producer and our crew did find that small talk before that captioning was difficult because of those auditory processing issues I mentioned. Stroke experts do say that this does not mean he has any cognitive impairment.”
Fetterman’s wife appears not to have accepted these explanations. During her conversation with Jong-Fast, she suggested that an apology should be issued and that Burns should face professional consequences.
“I mean, there are consequences for folks in these positions who are any of these isms. I mean, she was ableist. That’s what she was in her interview. It was appealing to the entire disability community and I think to journalism,” she said.
“I haven’t heard an apology. It hasn’t come,” she went on to declare before saying she was “hopeful” that NBC would “reflect” on its handling of the situation.
Fetterman’s performance in the interview itself has also raised questions about his ability to serve. Jonathan Martin, formerly of the New York Times, opined that it’s “a rough clip” for the candidate that would “only fuel questions about his health,” while a number of conservative commentators and Republican campaign accounts shared it on social media.
The Democratic nominee’s once considerable lead — 7.5 points in the RealClearPolicies polling average on July 15 — over his opponent, Mehmet Oz, has closed in recent days to just over three and a half points.