HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Dr. Mehmet Oz, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, has released his medical records as he maneuvers to keep questions about Democratic rival John Fetterman’s stroke recovery at the center of a hotly contested campaign.
Dr. Rebecca Kurth of New York wrote in a four-page letter that she found the 62-year-old heart surgeon-turned-TV celebrity to be in “excellent health” during an annual checkup Thursday.
The letter noted that Oz’s total cholesterol was “borderline elevated” but could be controlled through diet, and mentioned that in 2010 he had a polyp — a growth that can sometimes become cancerous — removed from his colon. His electrocardiogram — a test that records electrical signals in the heart to detect heart problems — came back normal on Thursday.
“Your exam is healthy and your blood work is favorable,” Kurt wrote. She did not recommend medication.
The release of the medical records comes as Oz tries to close a gap in the polls 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 his doctors’ interviews, now more than four months after he suffered a stroke in May that left him with long-term effects on his speech and hearing.
Two editorial boards, The Washington Post and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, called on Fetterman to release the medical records after he refused more than once to discuss Oz. The Postal newspaper said it 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.
On Friday, Fetterman’s company again did not commit to releasing the records or providing access to its doctors.
Rather, he attacked Oz in a statement that rehashes some of the themes Fetterman raised during the campaign, including highlighting long-standing criticism that Oz often promoted questionable products and medical advice on his show.
“In June, I released a letter from my doctor that clearly stated I was fit for duty,” Fetterman said in a statement. “Dr. Oz has built his entire career on lying to people about health. I trust my real doctors, not the opinion of a charlatan who played him on TV.”
Fetterman was receiving speech therapy, and a letter from his cardiologist said he would be fine and able to serve in the Senate if he ate a healthy diet, took his prescribed medication and exercised.
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 among only a handful of close races in the country.
While it is customary for presidential candidates to release health certificates, there is no such custom for US Senate elections. Some US senators have released medical records in the past when they ran for president.
Oz, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, also questioned Fetterman’s veracity in disclosing the effects of his stroke.
Fetterman, the state’s lieutenant governor, says doctors expect him to make a full recovery from his 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 easily winning the Democratic primary. His victory came hours after he underwent surgery to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator. Three weeks after the stroke, Fetterman reported that he was “almost dead,” and a letter from a cardiologist indicated that he had a serious and potentially fatal heart condition.
Fetterman has campaigned and spoken at public events, but he sometimes slurs his words, occasionally slurring his words and struggling to hear over background noise and process what he hears quickly. He recently agreed to one debate against Oz on October 25, though Oz has been pushing for more.
Fetterman will get closed captioning at the debate, but the candidates are still arguing over the terms. Oz is pushing to extend it to 90 minutes from 60 minutes to accommodate any subtitle delays.
Publicly, top Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have tried to calm party nerves over Fetterman’s condition, saying they are confident he is fit to serve.
Still, Fetterman has given reporters limited access to question him directly, doing only a handful of interviews since the stroke, all via video with subtitles to help him process his hearing.
In the 2016 Illinois Senate race, Democrat Tammy Duckworth released years of medical records when doubts arose about the fitness of Republican 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, denied access to his doctors and medical records. Still, Duckworth said during the debate that she thinks Kirk is capable of doing the job, but “the problem is he doesn’t.”
At the end of the race, Kirk’s campaign released a one-page letter from his treating physician, which said the senator had made a “full cognitive recovery” but was still slurring his words while dealing with limited use of his left leg and inability to use his left arm, the Chicago Tribune reported at the time.
Kirk eventually lost his re-election bid.