Thursday 27 October 2022

Fetterman Tries To Blame Closed Captioning Tech For Debate Failures. The TV Network Responds

 A spokesman for Democratic Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman’s Senate campaign attempted to blame technology failures for the candidate’s poor performance in Tuesday’s debate, leading to a rebuttal from the media outlet that carried it.

Fetterman repeatedly struggled to speak during his debate with Republican Mehmet Oz, at one point saying “I don’t, I don’t, I support fracking, and I stand,” in response to a question about fracking. The Democrat suffered a stroke in early May, knocking him off the campaign trail for three months. To help Fetterman participate, the debate included a closed captioning system that allowed him to read the moderators’ questions and Oz’s answers.

“We are thrilled with John’s performance. He did remarkably well tonight – especially when you consider that he’s still recovering from a stroke and was working off of delayed captions filled with errors,” campaign communications director Joe Calvello told NewsNation, whose parent company Nexstar aired the debate.

The Fetterman campaign repeatedly rejected debate requests from the Oz campaign before the two sides ultimately agreed to a single debate with extensive accommodations for Fetterman. Pennsylvanians began submitting their ballots on Sept. 19.

Despite his campaign’s complaints, Fetterman failed to take full advantage of the practice sessions Nexstar offered to both candidates, according to the media outlet’s chief communications officer. 

“Both candidates were offered the opportunity for two full rehearsals with the same equipment used in tonight’s debate; Mr. Fetterman chose to do only one,” CCO Gary Weitman told NewsNation. “In fact, Nexstar’s production team went to extraordinary lengths to ensure the effectiveness of the closed captioning process, and to accommodate several last-minute requests of the Fetterman campaign. The closed captioning process functioned as expected during rehearsal and again during tonight’s debate.”

The Fetterman campaign has repeatedly lashed out at the media when asked about the candidate’s difficulties communicating. After NBC News reporter Dasha Burns said Fetterman struggled with understanding her pre-interview small talk, the candidate’s wife, Gisele, called Burns “ableist” and demanded that she face “consequences.” Similarly, Gisele Fetterman argued that a Washington Post editorial calling for the candidates to debate at least twice was written solely to generate “clicks.”

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