By Jeff Zeleny, Chief National Affairs Correspondent
Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman may be away from the campaign trail until July, his wife told CNN on Monday, as she pushed back on suggestions that the family had not been fully transparent about the extent of his heart condition following a stroke last month.
“I think he deserves a month break to come back as strong as ever,” Giselle Fetterman said in an interview with CNN. “This is going to be a tough race and a really important race. I want him to be fully ready for it.”
Asked if John Fetterman, who serves as Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, would return to campaigning by July in one of the nation’s marquee Senate contests, she replied: “Maybe. I think so. That’s my hope.”
Fetterman checked himself into a hospital in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on May 13 as he was on his way to a campaign event. He was found to have suffered a stroke, which doctors treated, and he was released on May 22 after a nine-day stay. Fetterman’s cardiologist said Friday that the candidate suffers from both atrial fibrillation and cardiomyopathy.
In an interview in their hometown of Braddock, just outside Pittsburgh, Giselle Fetterman dismissed the notion that the campaign had not been fully transparent about her husband’s health. She had initially described his stroke as a hiccup, and the severity of his illness not revealed until 17 days later.
“It’s still a hiccup,” she said on Monday. “Families go through health crises. Our family is not unique in what we’ve gone through, only we had to go through it very publicly.”
Despite multiple statements during and after his time in the hospital, John Fetterman did not disclose previously that he had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation in 2017. And while the letter from his cardiologist released on Friday provided insight into what led to Fetterman’s stroke, the doctors that performed the procedure on the candidate in Lancaster last month have yet to speak publicly.
The candidate said in a statement last week that his doctors have instructed him “to rest, eat healthy, exercise, and focus on my recovery” and, because of that, it will “take some more time to get back on the campaign trail like I was in the lead-up to the primary.”
Giselle Fetterman said Monday that they have been releasing information as soon as they receive it, saying: “I think we’ve been incredibly transparent.”
“I just want folks to remember we are real people. This is a real family with kids who watch the news, who follow everything, and the second we get new information, we put it out,” she said. “That’s why we shared the last statement from the doctor. As soon as we (had) it available, it was out. I think it’s important to share. Not only because I think transparency is important, but because I hope it inspires other people to take action on their own health.”
She said the stroke, which she discovered after seeing her husband’s lips twitch in a peculiar way as they rode to a campaign event in the days before the primary election, was a wake-up call.
“It was. I hate that he had to learn it the hard way,” she said. “I’m grateful that he’s alive and will make a full recovery.”
And asked whether she could envision a scenario where he would not be able to return to the campaign in one of the nation’s most closely watched contests, in which he faces Republican nominee Mehmet Oz, she quickly said no.
“I don’t see that, but more importantly, his doctors don’t see that,” she said. “They are all confident he will make a full recovery.”
She also said the campaign was not opposed to more information being released by the team of doctors in Lancaster who treated her husband for the stroke, but said it is the policy of the Lancaster General Hospital to not talk about patient care.
“We have asked, but that’s not the protocol of the hospital,” she said. “It’s not up to us, we’ve asked. That’s up to their policies.”
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CNN’s Dan Merica contribued to this report.