BRADDOCK, Pa. — Democratic primary voters in Pennsylvania overwhelmingly voted for John Fetterman to carry the party banner in November's U.S. Senate race. But after the Lieutenant Governor suffered a stroke last month, the state's voters are getting much more of his wife, Gisele.
The Fettermans have presented themselves as a team throughout the campaign and, now, Gisele has become both spouse and campaign surrogate.
In a stunning admission, the Democratic Senate candidate revealed last week that he almost died after years of neglecting his health. He pledged to listen to his doctors in his recovery but the timing for his return to the stump remains unclear and the campaign is facing scrutiny over how and when they shared information about his health with the public.
NBC News sat down with Gisele Fetterman in their home town of Braddock as she stepped in for her husband. Gisele said that the Lt. Governor is well and strictly listening to his doctors.
And she recounted the bittersweet night of the primary, when he was unable to attend his own victory party after a landslide win.
Gisele said that the health issues forced Fetterman to learn his lesson “the hard way” and admitted she was frustrated with John for neglecting to take care of himself. She was caring for 3 young kids when he was first diagnosed with afib in 2017 and said she couldn’t be “his mother,” too. She assumed he would take responsibility for his own health.
Gisele said they were “lucky” that they were in Lancaster when the stroke occurred. “We were minutes away from a leading stroke center in the country. Two days after that we would have been in Pike County, no access to a stroke center. He probably would have had to have been helicoptered somewhere and his outcome would have been much different. But it’s also the conversation about like, what about the people that live there who don’t have access to health care?”
Pressed about why it took so long for the public to learn details about his health, Fetterman said they released info about the stroke 48 hours after it happened, and just before their own children found out.
She blamed the silence in the intervening weeks on the policy at the Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital where he was admitted. She said they released information as soon as they were able to get checked out by his own doctors in the Pittsburgh area who were willing to release information to media. The Lancaster General hospital did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In response to criticisms about transparency, she said: ”We’re a real family. We’re real people. Sure, we’re the nominee, but we’re still a family who have had to navigate these very personal and difficult things very publicly. I think we have done a superb job on transparency.”
She said John sees this as a “second chance” to do better and he’s taking that very seriously. He plans to be back on the campaign trail “in the next few weeks."