In Pennsylvania—well, somewhere nearby it, anyway—the Mehmet Oz campaign has been getting more and more exasperated with their Democratic rival. John Fetterman, battling Oz for one of the state's Senate seats, has been capitalizing on Oz's every gaffe, and while Oz's campaign hasn't yet sunk to the level of complete national embarrassment that Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker has managed, it has been getting real close.
It's not like Fetterman has had to try very hard. "Dr. Oz" started out as a Trumpian-premised television celebrity known mostly in recent years for his promotion of self-profiting quack dietary supplements and other would-be miracle cures, launched a Pennsylvania Senate campaign despite being one of the more famous residents of New Jersey, has at no point offered up any ideological agenda other than "put me in the Senate," had the audacity to release a Pennsylvania campaign video taped in his New Jersey home, and suffers from the sort of uncanny valley simulacrum of humanity other rich famous people running for office so frequently exhibit.
You know, like releasing very, very odd campaign videos in which the candidate attempts to go shopping for the ingredients of “crudités," only to get the name of the Pennsylvania grocery store chain completely wrong while sliding around the place like this "shopping" thing was an entirely new experience for him.
You can't pin that one on John Fetterman, buddy. That one's all you.
Fetterman has, however, been masterfully capitalizing on the inherent ridiculousness of Dr. Quack's Campaign Adventures, and the Oz campaign has been losing their cool as the weeks go on. That led to a snipe from Oz's senior communications adviser, Rachel Tripp, sniffing that if Fetterman "had ever eaten a vegetable in his life, then maybe he wouldn't have had a major stroke."
In general, that there is what is usually considered a gaffe. Attacking a candidate over a medical condition or disability is extremely not done, and it's not because anyone involved in (Republican) politics still has a scrap of minor decency they're clinging to, it's because attacking your opponent for a medical condition immediately causes every other American voter with that same medical condition to bristle. The number of people who have either had strokes or are at risk of them is very, very large, and few of them are likely to take kindly to a sneering dig suggesting that maybe they deserve it.
You'd typically see the offending campaign distance itself from such a blunder, but no:
I have to point out that that's not a vegetable, but never mind that for now. We get it: Everybody send Mehmet Oz an apple and we’ll never have to hear from him again. Plus, it’ll keep him from having to go back to a grocery store.
Even as condemnations of the Oz campaign’s attacks began to roll in, the campaign defended their remarks with an equally sneering "we're only trying to help" statement. A co-chair of the Oz campaign speculated to ABC News that "I think he's just had it," referring to Oz himself, and "he's probably tired of hearing about veggies."
Yes, it's been a long campaign and you can't expect the rich guy who took a field trip from his New Jersey mansion for this to not at some point snap about the treatment he's been getting. First having to walk into a grocery store, then getting laughed at over it? That's the origin story of a Batman villain. How could Oz not end up a twisted, broken husk of a man.
Anywho, the Oz campaign has clearly decided that not only won't it be backing away from Tripp's snipe, they're going to embrace it. Asshole mode, engage:
There's been no suggestion that Fetterman's health is that fragile, of course, but both campaigns are probably rethinking their debate stances good and hard at this point. We may have started out the season with an assumption that television personality "Dr." Oz would have the experience to not make a fool of himself during a televised debate, but that certainly ain't true now. And the Fetterman camp's wariness over giving a professional television grifter what he wants most in life, an audience, may ebb with the news that all Fetterman has to do is say crudités in a low voice to set Oz off.
Fetterman's been treating the Oz camp's tantrum here with a bit of mild disgust, but that's about it. It's also probably all it's worth. "I could never imagine ridiculing someone for their health challenges," he tweeted, before immediately moving on to more important things:
Huh, a Hollywood Spider Crab? It’s a voracious bottom-feeder found mostly in California, but can migrate to Florida, New York, or even New Jersey when conditions are right. Didn't know those things were still around.
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