Light Wave


Fetterman chokes up over his disability during Senate hearing

By Jake Beardslee · September 22, 2023

In brief…

  • Sen. Fetterman grew emotional during a hearing for the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging.
  • He addressed criticism of his auditory disability caused by a recent stroke.
  • Fetterman demonstrated the transcription app he uses that helps him communicate.
  • The Pennsylvania Senator turned the question on his fellow committee members, asking how they can be more empathetic to people with disabilities.
  • Fetterman has also been the subject of controversy over his insistance to wear a hoodie and shorts on the Senate floor.
Sen. John Fetterman teared up while addressing ridicule of his auditory disability in a Senate hearing attended by people with disabilities.  PopTech from Camden, Maine and Brooklyn, NY/Wikimedia

Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) grew emotional during a Senate committee hearing Thursday while addressing criticism he has faced regarding his auditory processing disability caused by a stroke.

Fetterman suffered a stroke shortly before winning the Democratic nomination for Senate last year, impairing his ability to speak fluently and participate in debates.

During a U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing attended by people with disabilities, Fetterman presented a transcription app he uses to help him fully participate in meetings and communicate with family members.

As he spoke of the derision he has sometimes regarding his disability, Fetterman began to tear up.

“Because I live in a political environment, I was ridiculed and made fun of because I wasn’t able to process things at times,” Fetterman said. “I’m so sorry. I’m sure many of you had to go through this kind of thing.”

Fetterman then turned to his fellow politicians and asked, “How can we become more empathetic, more responsive, and more effective senators?”

Fetterman has faced additional criticism from some Republicans in recent weeks for choosing to wear casual clothing - typically a hoodie and shorts - rather than suits while on the Senate floor. Some media pundits questioned his cognitive abilities based on his clothing choices.