Is Raising Fetterman’s Cognitive Issues a Form of Discriminatory “Ableism”?


Many of us watched the debate of John Fetterman (D) and Republican Mehmet Oz (R) last night and it was at times very difficult to watch. Fetterman is clearly still experiencing serious problems in cognitive processing and communication after his stroke five months ago. However, when some raised disconnected or incomprehensible responses, commentators like MSNBC’s Liz Plank objected to such criticisms as discriminatory “ableism.” The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that these questions only reflect our “discomfort” with disabilities.

I felt an enormous amount of sympathy in watching Fetterman struggle last night. This is terribly difficult for any stroke victim and I give him credit for soldiering on with his campaign. However, Plank and others suggest that recognizing a serious question over the incapacity of a politician is now considered discriminatory and hateful.

There have been allegations that Democratic operatives hid the extent of the stroke from voters, which occurred shortly before Fetterman was given the Democratic nomination. Since then, Fetterman has been closely protected from reporters seeking to ask him questions. Not only was the extent of the damage not revealed before the nomination, but this debate did not occur,  according to the Wall Street Journal, until after roughly half of the mail-in ballots were submitted.

Before the debate, NBC reporter Dasha Burns was attacked for merely noting that Fetterman did not appear to be able to process questions or comments before one of his relatively rare interviews.

Fetterman’s wife demanded an apology as others piled on Burns as an “ableist.” Gisele Fetterman told the Independent “I would love to see an apology towards the disability community from her and from her network for the damage they have caused.”

From the outset, it was clear that Fetterman has continuing residual damage from the stroke when he started by telling the audience “Hi goodnight.”

There were also glaring contradictions on his record, including  a strikingly false statement on his opposition to fracking. Fetterman repeatedly opposed fracking in prior years but categorically denied that past opposition in the debate:

This debate was all the more important due to the fact that Fetterman will not agree to anything more than a single one-hour debate with closed captioning technology. He has also limited any ability of reporters or voters to ask him questions at events. The voters have a legitimate interest in seeing how their senator will response to issues and opposing views.

Politico reporter Natalie Allison stated the obvious that “the ability to process conversation in real time and respond is a lingering challenge, and that was absolutely a real issue tonight for Fetterman.”

Yet, Plank denounced critics as engaging in discriminatory “ableism.”

Such charges are common on college campuses where the term is defined as “the privileging of ability and results in the oppression of disabled people based upon real or perceived impairments. It ‘others’ disabilities, chronic illnesses, and neurological or mental illness.”

The question, however, is whether a senatorial candidate’s difficulty processing or communicating is discriminatory. It is clear that a senator can use closed captioning in hearings to understand questions. The same is true for communicating with staff in the office or some other forums.

Two U.S. senators recently suffered strokes.Sen. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico suffered a stroke and required  physical therapy in his recovery.  Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois returned to the Senate a year after suffering a stroke. Staff stated in a 2015 article in the Atlantic that the stroke caused continuing difficulties for Kirk who lost his 2016 bid for reelection.

I agree that a diminishment of speaking abilities from a stroke victim should not be treated as a de facto barrier to public service. This issue has come up in EEOC cases dealing with the exception for Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications (BFOQs) under federal law. These cases may offer some insight into the balancing of interests.

The EEOC defines a “qualified individual with a disability” as “a person with a disability who meets all of a position’s legitimate job requirements and can perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation.”

The EEOC posts a letter on this issue as instructive:

“[T]here is no BFOQ defense in the ADA. Accordingly, an employer may not defend a disability-based employment action by asserting that the absence of disability is a BFOQ. An employer, however, may assert other defenses under the ADA. For example, an employer may defend the use of a qualification standard that screens out an individual on the basis of disability by showing that the standard is job related and consistent with business necessity. In that respect, the employer must show that the standard is an accurate measure of the individual’s ability to perform the essential functions of the position at issue. An employer may justify a safety-based standard by showing the existence of a direct threat, i.e., a significant risk of substantial harm that cannot be reduced or eliminated through reasonable accommodation.”

A stroke is a disability and there should be reasonable accommodations in the workplace. In most cases, such reasonable accommodations can and should be made.

Yet, according to Plank and some others, pundits and voters who question the ability of Fetterman to be effective as a senator are engaging in ableism. I do not agree as a general matter. The ability to process information and to communicate are clearly essential functions in representing a state in Congress. The problem is that we do not know the extent of the damage from this stroke and whether reasonable accommodations in the workplace are possible.

There was an EEOC settlement in 2013 with an employee who was thought to have suffered a stroke due to facial paralysis. The facial appearance was due to Bell’s Palsy. The EEOC lawyer stated:

“The ADA requires that all employees be given equal opportunity to do their jobs regardless of an actual or perceived disability, and employers should not make decisions based on perceptions about someone’s supposed impairment. This case should remind all employers that the ADA requires employers to make an individualized assessment about an applicant or employee’s ability to do the job instead of acting out of speculative fears or biases.”

The EEOC has also sued on behalf of a truck driver who was not accommodated after a minor stroke.

There is also the difference presented by this issue being part of a political debate on the overall fitness of a candidate to serve in Congress. This is obviously not an ADA-covered matter on the campaign trail. Communicative and cognitive ability are core criteria for voters. An analogous comparison can be drawn to cognitive questions raised about former president Ronald Reagan or President Joe Biden due to their advanced years. Is that “ageism” and also deemed discriminatory?

At a minimum, last night’s debate should make the disclosure of Fetterman’s medical records an imperative for the media. The question is whether this is just a speech problem as opposed to a more serious comprehension or mental processing issue.

212 thoughts on “Is Raising Fetterman’s Cognitive Issues a Form of Discriminatory “Ableism”?”

  1. The only thing that he has a disability with is covering up his ideology with lies. He’s clearly in the commiefascist arena and was never shy about it before. Now he has to deceive the voters into thinking he’s for them and the Constitution when he never was before. But the stroke causes him to struggle to keep up the lie. It’s a shame when a deceiver gets hit with a stroke.
    But I have no sympathy for someone like this forcing himself on us. If he gets elected we all know he will be switched out with his wife. This is clearly deception at best.

  2. “The ADA requires that all employees be given equal opportunity to do their jobs…”

    How did equal opportunity turn into special assistance?

    1. So we SHOULD hire blind pilots? You would want the quadriplegic EMS guy trying to perform CPR on you? How far are we willing to go in the name of ableism?

  3. Is this abelism?
    No. He has had an impairment which would make him unable to perform the required work.
    Abelism would be to discriminate against a person who is disabled yet would be capable of doing the work.

    Fetterman has a cognitive impairment that makes him unable to drive.
    So would it be abelism if you deny him the ability to work as an Uber driver?

    1. If you discriminate in hiring a disabled airline pilot because he had a stroke and can’t communicate well with air traffic controllers, (Then you are a Ableist)./s.
      I would not want a disabled senator who can not communicate with the electorate ether.
      Call me an Ableist I do not care.
      God save the Republic!

        1. Yeah have you price tix l ately? and American is this homo to brown on flight. It I disturbing. You will be held Boggs by their yellow head guy….who needs to get home to la…..via heartland dallas…And they c.f. Stupid….when they know it their queer moaning. It’s sick!

  4. Harrison Bergeron, short story by Vonnegut, wrote about this as a farce. It is no longer fiction. This ableism is a construct by those unable to to repay their student loan obligations

    1. Upstate Farmer raises a good point about the role of mainstream media (-NOT paid-for campaign ads and commercials) in attempts to influence elections. Of course, MSM is free to do so…. As long as we all understand how the ubiquitous MSM (in all forms) insidiously chokes out/silences/refuses to report upon, or discredits opposing viewpoints. Here’s good example: ad nauseam MSM television news coverage of Herschel Walker’s alleged payment for an abortion way back in 1993, but NO reporting on TV news (and in print, you have to look long and hard to see) coverage of Raphael Walker’s ex-wife alleging domestic abuse in 2020, yes, 2020. Apparently, the only sinners in America are Republicans and conservatives.

    2. I can list many commenters here that will buy that.

      I read that Joe Biden’s approval rating is 40%. That makes me ask – what rock are 40% of americans living under?

      If Biden triggered a nuclear war and 100 americans survived it – there would probably still be 30 defending Biden.

  5. “Is Raising Fetterman’s Cognitive Issues a Form of Discriminatory ‘Ableism’?” (JT)

    Yes. It is discrimination based on the *fact* that he is unable to handle the requirements of the job. In the same way that I discriminate against a blind quadriplegic operating on me. Caligula’s horse would be a more dignified legislator.

    Note the Left’s pathological dishonesty on full display:

    Those who use their own two eyes are excoriated.

    And they criticize the Fetterman camp for putting him on the debate stage. Their criticism amounts to: Why did you make it so easy for the whole world to see the truth? You should have continued lying to the American public, by keeping him away from puclic scrutiny. Don’t you know? Our desire is for absolute power. Any lie, any deceit is justified, in the name of that desire. How dare you disturb our lust for control.

    1. “Caligula’s horse would be a more dignified legislator.”
      Incitatus was infinitely better equipped to handle the requirements of the job ’cause who better than a Roman stallion to parse through the Left’s Horsepoop ideas and deeds.

  6. I recall when the Left constantly demanded cognitive tests for President Trump. Now, all of that is taboo. I wonder why? lol. So sick I had to leave the country, and probably will never return.

  7. People are looking at elections in the wrong way. You’re no longer voting for a candidate. You’re voting for a brand. The candidate can essentially be totally non-functioning and it doesn’t matter. Candidates come with their own administrators and managers who really run the show. So, a candidate can be brain-dead and the brand will continue with the administrators and managers in place.

    Joe Biden marched into the White House even though he’s essentially a totally non-functioning person. But he was sold on his brand. And his brand promised to reengage the United States in useless wars, to massively increase inflation, to increase crime, and to destroy freedom and liberty to the extent possible. The American public craved these things.

    And it didn’t matter a bit that Biden was non-functioning. His brand delivered on all those promises because his staff of administrators and managers are exceptionally skilled at engaging in useless wars, massively increasing inflation, increasing crime, and destroying freedom and liberty.

    So, if you live in Pennsylvania and you like the brand that’s exceptionally skilled at engaging in useless wars, massively increasing inflation, increasing crime, and destroying freedom and liberty, Fetterman’s your candidate. And don’t worry if he’s brain-dead. It won’t matter. The brand’s agenda will continue on as promised.

    The future is looking bright.

    1. This argument abt Ableism/discrimination against disabled is prima facie nonsense. Voting, by its very nature, is utterly and completely discriminatory. It is an expression of bias and preference to which all US citizens are entitled. Each voter can engage in whatever simple ot convoluted algorithm to make their choice, with the sole requirement being that they made that choice freely and without undue influence during the vote casting process. But, at the end of day, each voter arrives at a single voice by eliminating other choices. That process is by its very nature a healthy exercise in discriminatory judgment. Voting require discrimination, the elevation of one choice above others. The collective discrimination yields a newly active political leader who must always remember that he got the job due to favorable discrimination!

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