Top political debate coach says Fetterman’s performance against Oz shows he is ‘not ready to serve’

Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman’s performance Tuesday evening against his GOP challenger has led one of the top political debate coaches to conclude that Fetterman “is not ready to serve” and lacks the “minimal skill necessary to serve in the U.S. Senate.”

Throughout the debate, the first and only one between Fetterman and Pennsylvania Republican nominee Mehmet Oz before Election Day, the candidates sparred over issues like crime, the economy, abortion and fracking.

Brett O’Donnell, the president of O’Donnell & Associates who has served as a leading political debate coach for numerous candidates, told Fox News Digital in a statement that the conversation between the two candidates “was not a demonstration of a healthy debate.”

“Fetterman is unfit to serve because he can’t defend his policy positions, can’t articulate them, and would be a poor representative for Pennsylvania given his condition,” O’Donnell said. “Pennsylvanians should ask if this is the kind of representation that they want in the U.S. Senate, and they should also ask what is best for Fetterman. Shouldn’t he be allowed to recover without the pressures of being a U.S. Senator? It is clear he is not ready to serve.”


“As a former college debate coach, I support healthy debate from both sides in the political arena; after all, debate is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy and there has been far too little of it this cycle, but the Fetterman-Oz debate was not a demonstration of a healthy debate,” O’Donnell said, adding that he wishes Fetterman a “complete recovery” from the near-fatal stroke he suffered in May.

At one point during the debate, which utilized closed-captioning services at the request of Fetterman, the topic of fracking arose. Fetterman struggled to defend his current position on the process after debate moderators pointed out that he said in a 2018 interview that he does not support fracking “at all” and “never” supported it.

“I do support fracking, and I don’t, I don’t — I support fracking, and I stand, and I do support fracking,” Fetterman said during the debate.

Following the debate, Fetterman’s campaign blamed some debate fumbles on technical issues and delays with the closed captioning system. 


“We are thrilled with John’s performance,” Fetterman campaign spokesman Joe Calvello told reporters. “He did remarkably well tonight — especially when you consider that he’s still recovering from a stroke and was working off of delayed captions filled with errors. John won countless exchanges, counter-punched aggressively, and pushed back on Oz’s cruelty and attacks.”

Prior to the debate, the campaign also said Fetterman was not a polished debater even before his stroke, but O’Donnell is not buying that interpretation.

“There were multiple examples in the debate of Fetterman not being up to the task of a minimal skill necessary to serve in the U.S. Senate that even the gaslighting on Fetterman’s debate skills from his campaign couldn’t cover,” O’Donnell said. “After all, Senators debate and deliberate in the well of the U.S. Senate. And political debates are the most performative moments in the campaign where a candidate’s preparedness for that duty are on full display.”

O’Donnell, who has assisted numerous politicians with debate preparedness, including former GOP presidential nominee John McCain and former President George W. Bush, insisted that Fetterman could not “respond cogently” to the question regarding fracking and repeatedly used a “crutch phrase” as he attempted to gather his thoughts throughout.


“Fetterman couldn’t respond cogently when asked about his position on fracking. He stood in an awkward silence when asked about what issues he disagreed with Joe Biden,” he said. “He frequently used the crutch phrase ‘I believe,’ sometimes repeated one after another, to try and gather his thoughts. If one played a drinking game on the number of times he said ‘I believe,’ you would have died from alcohol poisoning. Joe Scarborough said it best, ‘This is painful to watch regardless of one’s politics.’ The Fetterman campaign made a significant mistake putting him on the debate stage. It requires everything someone in recovery from a stroke is incapable of — fast thinking synthesis of thoughts into brief, cogent message-focused statements.”

Following the Tuesday evening debatee, O’Donnell said it is hard for him to imagine a scenario where members of the press could conclude that Fetterman “won the debate or that it was even close.”

“My suspicion is some of the left media will try and cover for him by attempting to interpret what he meant for each issue,” he said. “However, Oz stayed on offense all night long, portraying Fetterman’s laundry list of liberal positions on everything from crime to immigration to drug legalization. Fetterman attempted to blurt out an attack or two that were mistimed or poorly executed.”

A former debate coach tells Fox News Digital that Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman’s debate performance shows he “is not ready to serve.”

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