John Gets This Jawn

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman gazes out over the crowd of hundreds of supporters before heading into his campaign message for Philadelphians during a rally campaign in NW Philadelphia, PA, on September 24, 2022.
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman greets the crowd after speaking during a rally campaign in NW Philadelphia, PA, on September 24, 2022.

PHILADELPHIA- Lt. Gov John Fetterman held his first public campaign event in NW Philly at the Dorothy Emanuel Rec. Center. The self-deprecating Senate candidate vowed not to pander, as Dr. Oz and other Republicans have.

Then he stumbled over a joke about the Eagles being Better than the Steelers, which he called the Eagles. The crowd was endeared by his speech’s halting, stumbling nature and the authenticity it imbued him. “We got to see him as a person, just like any of us,” said Desire Johnson of West Philly. “He’s not perfect, but he’s a good man doing his best, and that drove home that he’s going to fight for us. It didn’t hurt that he was on the right side of most of the issues.”

Fetterman turned every attack his opponent Dr. Oz had against him back on him. Sometimes, as an attack on Dr. Oz’s charter, other times spinning those attacks into strengths.

Fetterman asked the crowd to raise their hand if they or someone close to them had ever had a severe medical condition, and nearly everyone in the room raised their hands.

“I hope that you didn’t have a doctor in your life making fun of it, laughing at you, telling you that you’re not able to do your job, that you’re unfit to serve,” Fetterman said to raucous cheers.

Another of Dr. Oz’s attacks on Fetterman has been that he was soft on crime. Dr. Oz had specifically targeted his support for and employment of Dennis “Freedom” Horton and Lee Horton. With much affection, both had been brought on the stage earlier in the event by Pennsylvania’s Second Lady, Gisele Fetterman.

Pennsylvania Second Lady Gisele Fetterman welcomes Freedom Horton and Lee Horton, both campaign staff for the Fetterman campaign who Dr. Mehmet Oz disparaged as murderers who should be fired but were, in fact, innocent exonerees who John Fetterman worked to get released during a rally for John Fetterman in NW Philadelphia, PA, on September 24, 2022.

Dr. Oz accused the two men of being murderers. Both had their sentences commuted by Gov Wolfe because the evidence proved their innocence, despite police and judicial negligence. Since their release, the brothers have spent their time advocating for programs to reduce gun violence centered around the lived experiences of so-called lifers from the communities affected.

Dr. Oz demanded they be fired and has yet to apologize to the two men for the smears. Dr. Oz continues to attack Fetterman for advocating for releasing low-level offenders, people who served excessively lengthy sentences and wrongly convicted incarcerated people. Dr. Oz Claims to support the First Step Act and other criminal justice reforms that call for some of the same policies.

Freedom Horton and Lee Horton, both campaign staff for the Fetterman campaign who Dr. Mehmet Oz disparaged as murderers who should be fired but were, in fact, innocent exonerees who John Fetterman worked to get released, talk about Fetterman’s work on criminal justice reform in Pennsylvania during a rally for Fetterman in NW Philadelphia, PA, on September 24, 2022.

John Fetterman stood with us when no one else would. He did what was right when no one was looking,” said Lee Horton. He and his brother Freedom Horton served 28 years of a life sentence for second-degree murder, which they maintain they didn’t commit. “He (Fetterman) returned two innocent men home.”

Some rally attendees heard their story and understood it as a sign Fetterman would do the right thing for them and their community. “He will do the same for you; he will stand with you on kitchen table issues, like the economy, schools, healthcare, and voting rights,” said Dennis Horton.

Fetterman solidified this point when he spoke, telling the crowd he knew his advocacy would draw political attacks from the right, but “I would never trade a title for my conscience.” A sentiment that is sorely needed in modern politics.

“I see him as fair because the judicial system has been hard on us, and he’s been fair about it,” said Johnson Mazzccua, 62, a resident of Germantown. “He’s approachable; I haven’t felt like this about a politician since President Obama.”

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman opens his arms, exposing the tattoos of everyone who died due to gun violence in Braddock, while he was mayor there and a tattoo 5104 zip code for Braddock, Pennsylvania, during a rally campaign in NW Philadelphia, PA, on September 24, 2022.

“We need someone who will work to fix the root causes of crime, not just keep putting people in prison, mass incarceration and over-policing our communities have made the problems we face worse. We need housing, good jobs, investment in our schools, healthcare, a chance, and I see John as the guy that would fight to give us that chance,” said Tonya Bah, 56.

“I can give you a thousand reasons to vote for John, for the good Doctor being wrong for Pennsylvania, he’s wrong on gun violence, wrong on schools, the economy, reproductive rights,” said Rev. Mark Taylor, Pastor of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church. “John Fetterman had solved gun violence during his tenure as Mayor of Braddock; he knows how to bring in high-quality manufacturing jobs, get funding into schools, raise up all of our neighborhoods.”

Fetterman called his opponent out for his pandering and flip-flopping on the issues Dr. Oz says are core to his campaign. “Dr. Oz came here to Philly on Monday, talking about criminal justice reform, then turned around and made fun of criminal justice reform as soon as crossed into a red county, said, Fetterman. “He has no core values, no underlying beliefs.”

Fetterman ended his speech, pointing to the high stakes of this election for Pennsylvania and the country. “I’m running to be the fifty-first vote in the Senate, in D.C. to make good things happen for Pennsylvania,” said Fetterman. “I want to get rid of the filibuster, codify Roe v. Wade, get rid of this awful minimum wage of 7. 25 per hour, give us a living wage, fight for the union way of life.”

“Dr. Oz has called abortion murder; I will defend a woman’s right to choose,” said Fetterman.

Freedom Horton and Lee Horton stand on either side of John Fetterman as he lays out the need for further criminal justice reform. The two men were exonerated after spending 28 years in prison for a murder they didn’t commit. Fetterman’s opponent decried them as murderers and suggested they should be fired by the Fetterman campaign, during a rally in NW Philadelphia, PA, on September 24, 2022.


Fettermobile in front of City Fall in Philadelphia, September 24, 2022.

The Fetterman campaign also debuted the Fettermobile at the rally. The campaign says the food truck-style vehicle will criss-cross Pennsylvania in the run-up to the election selling campaign merch. The Truck will organize, register voters, and spread the Fetterman message.

Though I suspect no one can do that better than Dr. Oz, who told listeners of the right-wing podcast ‘Ruthless,’ “When he dresses like that, it’s not an accident,” Dr. Oz followed with the best advertisement for a political candidate, I’ve ever heard. “He’s kicking authority in the balls. He’s saying, ‘I’m the man. I’ll show those guys who’s boss.”

Dr. Oz does know this is the land of Gritty, right?




About Cory Clark 68 Articles
Cory Clark is a photojournalist and writer who focuses on human rights and other social issues. His work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Philly Magazine and Fortune. He has worked as a freelancer for Getty Images, The Associated Press, and Agence France-Presse for many years. Currently, he serves as the Senior Reporter for both Revive Local and the New MainStream Press.

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