John Fetterman (born August 15, 1969) is an American politician and the current Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania. He won the 2023 Senate midterm election in Pennsylvania. During the race, he received significant attention in the press for his unconventional style and appeal to voters. Fetterman's unconventional style for a politician (hoodies and gym shorts), as well as his size, have made him the subject of many memes online, particularly in 2023.
Fetterman began his political career as the mayor of the town of Braddock, Pennsylvania from 2006 to 2019. He first settled in Braddock five years prior, in 2001, as an Americorps volunteer following his graduation from Harvard with a Master's in Public Policy. Braddock was a majority-Black community devastated by the closure of factories and rampant crime. Fetterman attempted to turn the town around with a mixture of urban renewal programs and proactive measures to curb gun violence and attract investment. His tenure was characterized by frequent clashes with the city council of Braddock.
Fetterman ran for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate in 2016 and came in third. In 2018, he then ran for Lieutenant Governor and won. Fetterman refuses the label of "progressive," but does support progressive positions, such as Medicare for All and marijuana legalization.
In 2023, he ran in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania and, despite being hospitalized with a stroke on election night, won every county in the state, surprising the national Democratic Party and garnering much media attention. As of May 2023, Fetterman plans to run in the general election in November 2023 and, if elected, will serve in the U.S. Senate.
Fetterman has been highly memed on account of his physical appearance and overall demeanor. He is 6-feet 8-inches tall, and almost never wears a suit and tie, instead typically choosing to dress in hoodies and shorts.
Fetterman with hair looks like Lou Reed injected with the super soldier serum https://t.co/yyqrrJ0toN
— David Weigel (@daveweigel) May 18, 2023
Arrival On TikTok
On August 18th, 2023, Fetterman joined TikTok and announced his arrival on the platform through the video seen below. Within two days, the video received almost 54,000 likes and Fetterman received almost 54,000 followers.
hi tiktokkers 👋
Fetterman was promptly welcomed to the platform by Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ).
Dr. Oz Twitter Beef
Fetterman's 2023 Senate race against GOP candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz distinguished itself as a highly online race featuring aggressive and meme-heavy social media posting by both candidates. The race's meme-filled character has attracted attention from national journalists. On July 20th, 2023, Dr. Oz posted a meme (seen below, left) accusing Fetterman of cozying up to Senator Bernie Sanders, receiving almost 2,000 likes in nine days. Fetterman replied (seen below, right) to the original tweet 15 minutes after it was posted with a graphic design is my passion meme, presumably mocking Dr. Oz's meme-making skills and receiving almost 50,000 likes while accomplishing a ratio. 
Most of the memes by the candidates revolve around two consistent trends. Oz accuses Fetterman of spending not enough time on the campaign trail as he recovers from his stroke, and Fetterman accuses Oz of not really being from Pennsylvania.
On July 21st, 2023, Dr. Oz posted a meme (shown below, left) photoshopping Fetterman into a poster for the TV show Lost in an attempt to make the point that Fetterman had not appeared much on the campaign trail. The meme received just over 1,000 likes over the next few days. Fetterman's reply (shown below, right) which showed that he had set the Dr. Oz meme as his Twitter cover image, received over 18,000 likes in the same timeframe, as well as achieving another ratio.
On July 22nd, 2023, Oz posted a Little Miss Meme mocking Fetterman for not leaving his basement. Fetterman's quote-tweet of that meme, with a picture of him at a campaign event, received almost 25,000 likes over the next few days. The original Oz meme received just over 300 likes in the same time period, with Fetterman again ratioing Dr. Oz.
Fetterman's campaign posted frequently mocking Dr. Oz for his New Jersey roots leading up to the election, alleging that he is not a real Pennsylvanian. A quote-tweet from July 15th, 2023, accused Oz of acting like a tourist during a campaign visit to a cheesesteak shop in Philadelphia. It received over 181,000 likes in the course of two weeks.
Fetterman's trolling of Oz has continued, with the candidate using a viral Girl Explaining meme to criticize Oz for owning many houses and misleading voters about his wealth. The August 18th meme received over 113,000 likes in less than two days.
Crudité and Vegetables
In mid-August 2023, John Fetterman's opponent in the Pennsylvania Senate race, Mehmet Oz, posted a video of himself buying the ingredients for a "crudité" of raw vegetables at a grocery store and complaining about the price increases. On August 15th, 2023. Fetterman then quote-tweeted the video, mocking it and receiving over 73,000 likes in 10 days.
In PA we call this a… veggie tray https://t.co/nDp0Uw27zd
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) August 15, 2023
Others joined in shortly after, and crudité was covered on national news networks, gaining more attention than many other aspects of the campaign. Numerous Twitter users joked about the video in the following days, such as @ElijahCone, who made a tier meme (seen below) on August 20th, 2023, which received just under a thousand likes in five days.
In response to the criticism, Dr. Oz shot back with a comment about Fetterman, vegetables and the stroke he suffered. Fetterman wrote a tweet on August 23rd, 2023, reacting to the controversial comment and pinned it to his profile where it received almost a quarter of a million likes in two days.
Dr. Oz Poop Tweet
Another viral moment during the campaign took place after old tweets of Mehmet Oz about poop linking to his website (originally published to his account during his days as a celebrity TV doctor) took on a new resonance when paired with links to what had since become his campaign website. On August 20th, 2023, Fetterman quote-tweeted an Oz post originally from 2013 with a comment about the way in which the poop posts appeared.
Fetterman's May 2023 Stroke
On Friday, May 13th, 2023, Fetterman suffered a stroke. He initially avoided sharing details about his health and took a three-month break from the campaign trail. At this point, much of the campaign's energy went into social media, and the candidate's inability to go on the trail due to his recovery needs may have been a factor behind the meme-focused strategy.
As Election Day neared, Fetterman shared medical records showing that he had no impaired cognitive function. However, his opponent, Dr. Oz, and others continued to raise questions about Fetterman's health. Reportedly, Fetterman had clear problems with auditory processing, which required him to use closed captioning in order to understand what was said to him (a symptom many stroke victims have because the brain needs to relearn how to use language following a stroke).
Fetterman's auditory processing issues were especially apparent during his only debate with Oz, which was televised on October 25th, 2023. During the debate, Fetterman in particular struggled to answer a question about whether or not he supported fracking, giving several contradictory answers. The footage was reuploaded to a YouTube video posted by Oz on October 27th, which earned 83,000 views in two weeks (seen below).
Some, particularly his opponents on the right, heard Fetterman's speech difficulties as evidence of cognitive impairment, and a narrative that he did not have full mental functioning took hold. For example, Twitter user @mirandadevine tweeted (seen below, left) on November 9th that Fetterman was "cognitively challenged," gaining almost 8,000 likes in a day. On the left, many saw Fetterman's win as inspiring for Americans with disabilities, such as user @atrupar, who got over 5,200 likes for tweeting appreciatively on November 9th (seen below, right).
Further, many on the left criticized media coverage from NBC and Politico, which focused on Fetterman's speech difficulties as lacking in empathy and being sensationalist.
Fetterman's 2023 Senate Election Win
On November 8th, 2023, John Fetterman won his race against Dr. Mehmet Oz 50.8 percent to 46.8 percent. Follwoing his win, he became the Senator-elect from Pennsylvania, with his seat meaning that Democrats had a much higher chance of retaining control of the Senate.
Reactions to Fetterman's win varied widely. Some credited his victory to his campaign's skill at making fun of his opponent and creating memes. For example, Twitter user @LeviFetterman, a joke account for Fetterman's dog, tweeted "memes r the way" on November 10th, earning just over 300 likes in less than 24 hours (seen below, left). Memes were notably a large part of Fetterman's strategy up until the last hours of the race when he posted a "Get Out The Vote" meme (seen below, right), earning almost 6,900 likes in two days.
Responses to Fetterman's victory ranged from joyful, particularly for Democrats, to less satisfied, primarily for Republicans. Much of the response centered around his body and size. On the left, some like Twitter user @PopulismUpdates shared photos of Fetterman walking around in gym shorts during a snowstorm, appreciating his size and earning almost 45,000 likes on November 9th. On the right, many posted memes mocking Fetterman's physical appearance, including user @NarleyHarley93 (seen below, right), who received 20 likes in a day on November 9th for their tweet.
Pulling A Gun On A Black Jogger
Controversially, Fetterman chased an unarmed Black jogger with a loaded 20-gauge shotgun in 2013 after believing he heard gunshots in his neighborhood. Fetterman has not apologized for the incident and accusations of racism have followed him ever since.
The jogger he assaulted, Christopher Miyares, has since expressed support for Fetterman’s candidacy in letters written to local papers, and said that he understands why Fetterman has not apologized or admitted he pointed the gun at Miyares because “it could cause him more harm than good” and “…it is inhumane to believe one mistake should define a man’s life.”
 Philadelphia Inquirer – Everything to know about the 2013 John Fetterman jogger incident
 Twitter – "@JohnFEtterman:https://twitter.com/JohnFetterman/status/1590108856340082688
 Philadelphia Inquirer – John Fetterman had a stroke in May. Here’s what we know about his health.
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