NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!
EXCLUSIVE: Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz is challenging his Democratic opponent John Fetterman to a debate ahead of what he calls a “transformative” election, while saying the “values” of Pennsylvanians are “better reflected” in his positions than his rival’s.
Oz told Fox News Digital he has already committed to five debates, and “may consider other debate opportunities.”
The GOP candidate, who believes that debates are a “crucial part of the democratic process,” has committed to a KDKA Pittsburgh debate on Sept. 6, a WFMZ and Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce debate on Sept. 9, a Nexstar debate on Oct. 5, a FOX29 Philadelphia debate in partnership with Spotlight PA, and a WGAL-NBC Harrisburg debate.
But Fetterman, who suffered a stroke in May, has not yet committed to debating Oz, despite being invited to all five of those debates.
“John Fetterman will not participate,” Oz told Fox News. “So, he’s got to come out and explain it.”
“I’m a doctor, and I get if he is too sick to participate because of his crippling stroke,” Oz said. “But he does have to come forward and transparently explain to Pennsylvania what is going on.”
Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz is challenging his Democratic opponent John Fetterman to a debate ahead of what he calls a "transformative" election. (Hannah Beier/Bloomberg | Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Oz added: “Is he physically unable to? Or is he hiding from his radical record?”
A spokesman for Fetterman told Fox News that “John is up for debating Oz and contrasting his plans and record with Dr. Oz so that Pennsylvania voters can get a real sense of where the candidates stand—but not on Oz’s desperate terms and timeline.”
“This is just an obvious attempt to change the subject during yet another disastrous week for Dr. Oz,” the spokesperson told Fox News.
Meanwhile, when asked, though, if Oz plans to make Fetterman’s health a focus of the general election, Oz replied: “I want to serve the voters of Pennsylvania, and they are better served by focusing on the major issues that are plaguing them.”
Oz pointed to inflation, the cost of living, gas, the increase in crime in Pennsylvania, and human trafficking leading to an increase in fentanyl deaths.
“The values of Pennsylvanians are better reflected in my positions than John Fetterman’s,” Oz told Fox News Digital, saying that a “conservative general principle is to empower people to take care of themselves, to do what they want to do in life.”
“The government is a back-up plan,” Oz said. “When I started my show, it was on that same principle – to make sure that all of America knows that they can be in charge of their own well-being, become experts in their own bodies – and, as a political figure, it is the same basic story.”
Oz stressed the need to “empower voters, give them autonomy, and let them do what they think they can do in their lives.”
“Get the regulation out of the way. Don’t put overly burdensome taxes on them,” Oz said. “Don’t make all of the decisions for them – because they can do a better job than big government can.”
Oz said that the “big difference” between himself and his opponent is, “I believe in you.”
“I believe in the American people, and John Fetterman has lost confidence in American ingenuity and American grit,” Oz said.
Oz also addressed the criticism he faced over a recent Twitter video that some have slammed as tone-deaf.
Mehmet Oz speaks during a primary election night event in Newtown, Pennsylvania. (Michelle Gustafson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
To highlight the record inflation plaguing American families, Dr. Oz published a video of him shopping for ingredients for a “crudité,” a dish consisting of vegetables meaning “raw things” in French.
Several reacted to the viral video, pointing out the nominee’s use of the appetizer’s French name and reflecting on the millionaire heart surgeon and TV personality’s lifestyle.
“In PA, we call this a veggie tray,” Fetterman tweeted in response to Oz’s video.
But Oz has stressed that the issues are more important than his choice of words – while at the same time, saying Pennsylvanians are “sharp.”
“You know what – in making my show I always expected the best for my audience and they always delighted me, because Americans are really sharp, and they get it,” Oz said. “And so what I see John Fetterman doing is purposely muddying the water.”
Oz added: “The more he talks about vegetables and other topics, right, the more I’m wondering, how long is he going to go before he actually defends his far left radical positions? Because that’s actually what this whole election revolves around.”
John Fetterman’s campaign did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment on whether he plans to participate in any debates against Mehmet Oz. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Oz called the election a “transformative” one, saying that he felt a “calling” to run for the U.S. Senate.
“I knew that I could not live the rest of my life and look back and wonder, ‘Why didn’t I participate? Why didn’t I help when I could have?’” Oz said. “I think this time calls for all of us to bravely say what we see.”
“I think all of us have that obligation and I am able to do it now,” Oz said. “So it gives me great pride to help my country.”
Democrats are leading in the Pennsylvania midterm Senate race, while the economy is the most pressing issue for registered voters in the state, according to a new Emerson College poll released Thursday, putting Fetterman at a 4-point lead over Oz.
A Franklin & Marshall College poll, though, suggests Fetterman is leading Oz 43% to 30%.
Meanwhile, former President Trump, who endorsed Oz, is set to join him on the campaign trail in September.
“I’m looking forward to being with him,” Oz said.
Brooke Singman is a Fox News Digital politics reporter. You can reach her at [email protected] or @BrookeSingman on Twitter.