John Fetterman addresses using closed captioning on campaign trail after stroke

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After an interview showed John Fetterman using a closed captioning device to read questions, the Democrat, who is running for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat, tackled the subject that has been front and center on the campaign trail — his health.

“The elephant in the room for a lot of folks is that I had a stroke,” he said during a Facebook Live session on Wednesday. “And there are — there’s no secret that sometimes I’m going to miss words, and sometimes I’m going to mush two words together. And that’s the truth.” 

The lieutenant governor’s health has become a political target for his Republican challenger, Trump-backed Dr. Mehmet Oz, who continues to press Fetterman to disclose his medical records. 

Fetterman will use a closed captioning device during their upcoming debate on Oct. 25. 

“I sometimes will hear things in a way that’s not perfectly clear. So I use captioning so I’m able to see what you’re saying on the captioning,” he told NBC in Tuesday’s interview. 

For Fetterman and others who suffer a stroke, the recovery can be difficult, including how it affects verbal exchanges. 

CBS News contributor Dr. David Agus explained that the stroke likely affected the area of the brain that handles auditory processing, “taking words or sounds and converting them to words that the brain can understand. So he can’t make that conversion well.”

Sources close to Fetterman told CBS News that they are confident that voters understand that he is facing health challenges but will conclude he is ready to serve. Their latest strategy is to keep having him engage with voters, reporters and with Oz. 

Veteran Democrats say the polls remain tight and this latest flash point might not move the needle. 

“They see in John Fetterman, who they want to see — whether he is a courageous, sympathetic candidate or whether you see him as a person who is just not physically capable of carrying out the job,” said Democratic strategist Larry Ceisler. 

Robert Costa contributed reporting. 

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