Sen. John Fetterman, D-Penn., left Walter Reed hospital last week after a six-week treatment for post-stroke depression — his second hospitalization since being inaugurated in January.
On Sunday, CBS News aired a fawning, heavily edited interview with Fetterman, and it caused concern among critics that have accused Fetterman of being unable to perform his duties in the U.S. Senate.
Fetterman discussed his speaking difficulties. He described his recovery as an upward trend, but he still required frequent pausing — and that’s what was aired. CBS News dolled up the interview in post-production with heavy edits.
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CBS Sunday Morning anchor Jane Pauley asked. “When I talk, what do you hear?”
Fetterman responded, “I hear you talking. And I can understand much of what you’re saying. But my hearing has a deficiency that makes it difficult for me to fully understand 100% of it.”
Pauley followed up, “At some point, you described what you hear as like Charlie Brown’s teacher.
“Yeah. Early on. That was more months and months ago,” the senator said. However, he also acknowledged, “Right now, captioning is helpful for me.”
Still, Fetterman may be relying on electronic captions more than he lets on. During the interview, the senator was still staring on at the screen with the subtitles. Meanwhile, his wife — nonprofit executive Gisele Fetterman — was looking at Pauley.
Plus, CBS News appears to have employed cuts to cover Fetterman’s pausing and mumbling.
For example, Pauley was asking Fetterman about the reports of him appearing withdrawn during a Democratic retreat. Pauley asked, “Did you care whether you were there or anywhere or nowhere?”
Fetterman mumbled his way through an answer. “I just showed up where my — uhh — staff said,” he responded.
“Robotic,” Pauley interrupted, after a jump cut.
“Yeah,” Fetterman murmured. “Exactly. Yeah.”
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CBS News often edits interviews to fit them in the time allotted — but not this frequently, critics said. CBS News was making these edits in addition to making excuses for Fetterman. For example, Pauley described Fetterman as “an unlikely darling of the fashion world” and asked whether it was “fair” to expect a debate from Fetterman when he was a candidate for U.S. Senate.
“The debate performance was not you at your best,” Pauley said. “Was that fair?”
“If I’m in the race and I made the decision to stay in the race, then it’s important that I know up for a debate, knowing that it would be challenging,” Fetterman responded. “That’s what we did.”
CBS's Jane Pauley on John Fetterman: "A towering mayor with a Harvard degree and a penchant for hoodies and shorts. He was becoming a rising political star and an unlikely darling of the fashion world." pic.twitter.com/JhCmTdLK7s
— Kevin Tober (@KevinTober94) April 2, 2023
Pennsylvania Senator @JohnFetterman talks about his "downward spiral" that led to a diagnosis of major depression, how his health scare affected his family, and his reasons for feeling hopeful for the future.https://t.co/LOQNIoxrVa pic.twitter.com/YJarDmFbuL
— CBS Sunday Morning 🌞 (@CBSSunday) April 2, 2023
Fetterman described the depression as first appearing in November and December, after last year’s midterm elections. He reportedly expects to return to the Senate later this month, and said he remains optimistic about the future.
Pauley remarked, “Your trajectory — from mayor to lieutenant governor to United States senator — was still pointing up at 53. In politics that’s a young man. Can you have aspirations? Can you serve beyond the United States senate?”
“My aspiration is to take my son to the restaurant that we were supposed to go for his birthday but couldn’t because I had checked myself in for depression,” Fetterman demurred.
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After watching the interview, one supporter advised Fetterman to avoid higher office for now. He said on Twitter, “Good, then resign, get better, and run again later.”
Another person said, “Jane Pauley says ‘you seem so hopeful’ immediately after he tears up. In this anything but terrific interview I’d say Mr. Fetterman is possibly ready for release from the hospital but clearly still struggling. He doesn’t appear ready to manage such an important job as senator.”
Watch the 10-minute interview for yourself here —
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.