Senator John Fetterman’s response to a protester calling for a cease-fire in Gaza left a lot to be desired.
Fetterman spoke at a Get Out the Vote rally for Democratic candidates in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, on Sunday. Right as he took the stage, a protester shouted, “Four thousand-plus dead children in Palestine, 9,000-plus dead civilians!”
“Get off the stage! Get off the stage! I don’t care,” he called out at Fetterman.
Most of the audience booed, and the Pennsylvania senator replied, “The joke is on you. I had a stroke. I can’t fully understand what you’re saying.”
Police then escorted the protester out, as he shouted at Fetterman to “go home.” Another protester yelled, “Free Palestine. Cease-fire now!” before leaving as well.
Fetterman, alongside the vast majority of the U.S. government, has not called for a cease-fire in Gaza. Gaza’s ministry of health announced Monday that more than 10,000 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel’s ongoing retaliation to Hamas’s October 7 attack.
Normally a darling of younger voters and internet users for his quippy reactions, Fetterman’s response this time leaves a bad taste in the mouth. He spent the second half of his campaign and a fair amount of his term fending off rumors that he is mentally and physically incapable of holding office. He can’t have it both ways and use his stroke recovery as an excuse to ignore comments he doesn’t like.
So far, Dick Durbin is the only senator to call for a cease-fire—a comment that he sought to temper hours later, as if calling for peace is a controversial stance. A total of 24 members of Congress have also called for a cease-fire. President Joe Biden has only called for a “humanitarian pause.”