Videos of John Fetterman alleging to be real have in fact been edited to exaggerate an existing speech problem that the Democratic nominee for the Pennsylvania’s US Senate seat grapples with, a report says.
Pennsylvania’s current lieutenant governor has experienced speech issues since a stroke in May, which some – including a Washington Post op-ed on Monday – have called “unsettling” and “halting”.
While those concerns remain valid, an NBC News report on Wednesday identified multiple videos that had been manipulated and edited to exacerbate the Democrat nominee’s speech issues.
Clips that appeared on both TikTok and Twitter – some of which have been removed for violating site policies – showed Mr Fetterman abruptly stopping or remaining silent when an audience was in fact clapping.
Other videos reportedly cut him off mid-sentence to make it seem he made no sense, in clear violation of misinformation and “integrity” guidelines set out by Twitter and TikTok – the latter of which did remove the footage flagged by NBC News.
Twitter, which did not immediately move to take down the doctored videos, has been approached for comment by The Independent. Rules set out by the social media website say “synthetic, manipulated, or out-of-context media” that is “likely to result in widespread confusion on public issues” is prohibited.
The revelation that fake videos of the Democrat senate candidate were being shared online follow months of criticism aimed at Mr Fetterman, who the Washington Post argued in its editorial had failed to hold a press conference.
“Since returning to the campaign trail, Mr Fetterman has been halting in his performances. He stammers, appears confused and keeps his remarks short. He has held no news conferences,” the article read.
Pennsylvania lieutenant governor John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for the state’s US Senate seat
It continued: “Mr Fetterman is asking voters for a six-year contract without giving them enough information to make sound judgments about whether he’s up for such a demanding job. We have called for full disclosure of health records from candidates for federal office in both parties, including Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and we believe Mr Fetterman should release his medical records for independent review.”
The current lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania has already agreed to a televised debate with his Republican opponent Dr Mehmet Oz on 25 October, two weeks before voters go to the polls.
In a statement, the Oz campaign said Mr Fetterman had agreed to the debate only “after being hit with massive criticism from state and national editorials and commentators for ducking”. The Oz campaign also complained that Mr Fetterman had “insisted on accommodations for his health condition,” although it remained unclear what those were, the Associated Press reported.
Mr Fetterman has won praise from Democrats for running a slick social media campaign in which he has sought to portray Dr Oz as a newcomer to his state, having previously lived in New Jersey.
Joe Calvello, a spokesperson for Mr Fetterman, told NBC News that the fake videos were “sad” and “desperate”. He added that “Dr Oz’s MAGA allies are deceptively editing videos of John speaking in order to mock him while he recovers from a stroke.”