HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, is releasing his health records as he maneuvers to keep questions about his Democratic challenger John Fetterman at bayfront and center in the hotly contested campaign.
Dr. Rebecca Kurt of New York wrote in a four-page letter that she found the 62-year-old heart surgeon-turned-television celebrity to be in “excellent health” at an annual checkup Thursday.
The letter notes that Oz has a total cholesterol level that is “borderline elevated” but can be controlled through diet, and mentions that in 2010 he had a polyp, a growth that can sometimes become cancerous – removed from the large intestine. The electrocardiogram – a test that records electrical signals in the heart to detect heart problems – he had on Thursday came back normal.
“Your exam is healthy and blood tests are favorable,” Kurt wrote. She did not recommend medication.
The release of the health records comes as Oz tries to plug the polling gap and has increasingly made Fetterman’s fitness a central issue in his campaign.
Fetterman, 53, has been silent on releasing medical records or giving reporters access to question his doctors for more than four months after suffering a stroke in May that left lasting effects on his speech and hearing.
Two editorial boards, of The Washington Post and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, called on Fetterman to release medical records after he refused to debate Oz more than once. The Post-Gazette said that should include cognitive tests and making his doctors available to reporters.
It said Oz should also release his medical records, a request Oz quickly agreed to.
In a statement, Oz said that “voters should have full transparency when it comes to the health status of candidates running for office.” Oz, a heart surgeon, is best known for “The Dr. Oz Show,” which he hosted on daytime television for 13 years.
Fetterman’s campaign again did not commit Friday to releasing records or providing access to his doctors.
Rather, he attacked Oz in a statement that revived some of the themes Fetterman raised during the campaign — including highlighting long-standing criticism that Oz often promotes questionable products and medical advice on his show.
“In June, I released a letter from my doctor that clearly stated I was fit to serve,” Fetterman said in the statement. “Dr. Oz built his entire career on lying to people about health. I trust my real doctors over the opinion of a charlatan who played it up on TV.”
Fetterman is receiving speech therapy and a letter from his cardiologist says he will be fine and able to serve in the Senate if he eats healthy foods, takes prescribed medications and exercises.
The presidential battleground race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey could help determine control of the deeply divided Senate, and Democrats see it as perhaps their best chance to pick up a seat in just a handful of close races nationally.
While it is common for presidential candidates to release health records, there is no such custom in US Senate races. Some US senators in the past have released medical records when they ran for president.
Oz, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, also questioned Fetterman’s veracity in disclosing the effects of his stroke.
Fetterman, the state’s lieutenant governor, said doctors expect him to make a full recovery from the stroke and that he is improving rapidly, cognitively intact and maintaining the healthiest habits of his life.
Fetterman suffered a stroke on May 13, four days before he easily won the Democratic primary. His victory came hours after he underwent surgery to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator. Three weeks after the stroke, Fetterman revealed that he was “almost dead” and a letter from his cardiologist revealed that he had a serious and potentially fatal heart condition.
Fetterman campaigns and speaks at public events, but he sometimes stutters, garbles random words and struggles to hear over the background noise and quickly process what he hears. He recently agreed to one debate against Oz to be held on October 25, despite Oz pushing for more.
Fetterman will get closed captioning during the debate, but the candidates are still fighting over the terms. Oz is pushing to extend it to 90 minutes from 60 minutes to account for any delays from closed captioning.
Publicly, top Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have sought to calm party nerves about Fetterman’s condition, saying they are confident he is fit to serve.
Still, Fetterman gave reporters limited access to question him directly, doing only a few interviews after the stroke, all via closed-captioned video to help him with auditory processing.
In a 2016 Senate race in Illinois, Democrat Tammy Duckworth released years of medical records when there were questions about the fitness of Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, who suffered a stroke in 2012.
Kirk was still suffering from the effects of the stroke four years later and, like Fetterman, did not provide access to his doctors or medical records. Still, Duckworth said during the debate that he thinks Kirk is capable of doing the job, but “the problem is he’s not doing it.”
Late in the race, Kirk’s campaign released a one-page letter from a treating doctor saying the senator had made a “full cognitive recovery” while still speaking with a halt, dealing with limited use of his left leg and inability to use his left his hand, the Chicago Tribune reported at the time.
Ultimately, Kirk lost his re-election bid.