The New York Times’s Annie Karni wrote an update on Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) published Thursday that almost reads like a Fetterman staff press release. However, whatever her intentions, Karni inadvertently reveals that Fetterman had completely fallen apart in the brief six weeks from the day he was sworn in as Senator on January 3rd to February 15 when he was admitted to the psych ward at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland where he has remained incommunicado for three weeks now. The article also reveals Fetterman to be a figurehead for his staff.
In her article Karni accused Fetterman critics of saying “with no evidence” the hospital photos released this week by Fetterman’s staff were staged, “After his top aide tweeted pictures of Fetterman working from the common room this week, several people posted responses claiming with no evidence that the photographs were staged and that Fetterman was incapacitated.”
Astute observers noted Fetterman was not wearing the reading glasses he was seen wearing at Senate hearings last month. Others wondered why no video of Fetterman thanking well wishers was released as happened in the days after his May 2022 stroke.
Fetterman Senate office press release photo, February 1.
Karni gives a description of Fetterman that shows how far gone he was and how he is a figurehead for his staff with a laughable headline that claims he is running his office (excerpt):
Cloistered at Walter Reed, Fetterman runs his Senate operation from afar
In a cheerfully decorated common room at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, with floral paintings adorning violet walls, Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania begins most days meeting with his chief of staff (Adam Jentleson), who arrives around 10 a.m. carrying a briefcase full of newspaper clips, statements for him to approve, legislation to review and other business of the day.
…Doctors caring for him have said Fetterman should limit his exposure to cable television, the internet and social media — a major information detox for someone whose obsession, and occupation, is politics.
…he is set on taking his time in treatment, with the hope of returning to work within the next few weeks.
…That means that for now, Fetterman is spending his days not at the Capitol but 12 miles northwest at the sprawling Walter Reed campus, where he takes long walks on the trails and participates in talk therapy sessions. His doctors are continuing to monitor the dosages of his medications.
Fetterman often spends his afternoons and evenings with visiting family members — his parents and his brothers often come to the hospital and stay until dinner time. At least once a week, his wife Gisele visits from Braddock, Pennsylvania. There are no limits on how long his visitors can stay, or when they are allowed in. His small circle has been mostly limited to two staff aides and his family.
When Fetterman checked himself into the hospital on Feb. 15, the lead doctor told him that his case was treatable and guaranteed he would get back to his old self.
…The strict regimen may be working. People around Fetterman said they have noticed a palpable difference in him in recent days: His sense of humor has returned and he is more sociable, sharing with the nurses some of the sweets that have been sent to him by fellow senators.
…When Jentleson recently showed up at Walter Reed on a weekend dressed in a plaid shirt, a beanie and boots, Fetterman took one look at him and commented, “I didn’t know you were a farmer.”
The teasing was a glimmer of the personality and sense of humor that have been all but dormant for the past few months, but are now resurfacing as he recovers.
“No one in the Senate has seen him being himself,” Jentleson said. “That person is going to be a force of nature as a senator.”
As for how important a Senator is to his office, Karni reports:
It is not unusual for lawmakers to be told by members of their staff, sometimes after the fact, what bills they are co-sponsoring. With the exception of calls to Cabinet officials or meetings with the chief executives of companies that are important to their states, there are few meetings that cannot be handled by senior staff.
“Any lobbyist will tell you that if you get as high as the chief of staff, and that chief makes a promise to you that the senator will do something, that will be accepted,” said Ross Baker, professor of political science at Rutgers University and a former aide to Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. “It will be as if the senator himself gave the OK.”
Baker added that even with a senator sidelined, “a Senate office, particularly under an experienced chief of staff, would run pretty much in a normal way.”
End excerpts. Please read the entire Times article at this (no paywall) link to the Seattle Times.
Karni does not report on Fetterman being hospitalized because he was a danger to himself, being unable to feed or hydrate himself properly, just saying he was hospitalized for “severe clinical depression.” Photos show Fetterman has lost a tremendous amount of weight in the two months since he became a Senator.
John Fetterman side by side. January 3 photo by Jon Cherry/Reuters. March 6 by Fetterman Senate staff. pic.twitter.com/TMVWjOuyTm
— Kristinn Taylor (@KristinnFR) March 6, 2023
Nor does Karni state whether she sought an interview with Fetterman himself or his doctors. Anecdotes in the article are unsourced, indicating they came from Fetterman’s staff–who are alumni of the late Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). The only non-Fetterman source quoted in the article is a former Reid staffer.
Fetterman’s wife Gisele is not quoted in the article, just a mention that she visits her husband “at least once a week” (but without a mention of her ziplining adventures and firefighter larping while John has been hospitalized.)
“Overall, Lt. Governor Fetterman is well and shows strong commitment to maintaining good fitness and health practices. He has no work restrictions and can work full duty in public office.”
Four months to the day Fetterman was checked into the psych ward because he was a danger to himself.