NBC's Savannah Guthrie questions own network's report on Fetterman's ability to understand

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NBC reporter Dasha Burns defended her observation that Democratic Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman had a “difficult” time understanding small talk prior to a recent interview.

Appearing on NBC’s “Today” show Wednesday to provide a follow-up on her high-profile interview with the candidate – the first in-person one Fetterman has done since suffering a stroke in May – Burns told co-host Savannah Guthrie that small talk with Fetterman prior to the interview was “difficult.”

Guthrie pushed back, citing other journalists who have claimed Fetterman seemed fine to them during remote exchanges. Though Burns was adamant that, in her experience, Fetterman had trouble understanding her and her crew until interview questions were closed captioned for him to read during their sit down.

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John Fetterman, lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and Democratic senate candidate, speaks during a campaign rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US, on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Fetterman and Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz are running to replace Republican Senator Pat Toomey, who is retiring. The outcome of the race could decide which party controls the Senate. Photographer: Nate Smallwood/Bloomberg via Getty Images

John Fetterman, lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and Democratic senate candidate, speaks during a campaign rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US, on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Fetterman and Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz are running to replace Republican Senator Pat Toomey, who is retiring. The outcome of the race could decide which party controls the Senate. Photographer: Nate Smallwood/Bloomberg via Getty Images

On Wednesday morning, Burns told the host, “And Savannah, we did find that in small talk before the interview without captioning it seemed it was difficult for Fetterman to understand our conversation.”

Guthrie acknowledged that Burns made the same point the previous evening on “NBC Nightly News,” though questioned the claim: “Since then, other journalists who have also dealt with Fetterman came forward and said they had a different experience.”

Burns defended her initial assessment, responding, “Yeah and Savannah that’s completely fair that that was their experience. We can only report our own.”

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NBC correspondent Dasha Burns told NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie that Democrat Senate candidate John Fetterman has'difficult' time understanding small talk. 

NBC correspondent Dasha Burns told NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie that Democrat Senate candidate John Fetterman has ‘difficult’ time understanding small talk. 

Fox News Digital reported Wednesday on several prominent liberal journalists who, contrary to Burns, insisted that Fetterman was completely coherent during their interviews with him.

After seeing clips of Burns’ interview with Fetterman, Vox’s Kara Swisher tweeted, “Sorry to say but I talked to @JohnFetterman for over an hour without stop or any aides and this is just nonsense. Maybe this reporter is just bad at small talk.”

Liberal YouTube personality Brian Tyler Cohen tweeted, “Here’s my interview with @JohnFetterman from a few days ago. The notion that he wasn’t able to understand is mind-numbingly false.”

And New York Magazine writer Rebecca Traister wrote, “As someone who has recently interviewed him: Fetterman’s comprehension is not at all impaired. He understands everything, it’s just that he reads it (which requires extra acuity, I’d argue) and responds in real time. It’s a hearing/auditory processing challenge.”

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, accompanied by Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Pa., speaks in Philadelphia, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Ryan Collerd)

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, accompanied by Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Pa., speaks in Philadelphia, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Ryan Collerd)
(The Associated Press)

Back on “Today,” Burns continued: “I will say, it’s important to note that according to the campaign itself our team was the first to be in the room with Fetterman for an interview rather than via remote video conference and myself, my producer and our crew did find that small talk before that captioning was difficult because of those auditory processing issues I mentioned.”

She added, “Now, stroke experts do say that this does not mean he has any cognitive impairment, doesn’t mean his memory or his cognition is impaired, and he can fully recover from this. And once the closed captioning was on he was able to fully understand my questions throughout that 25-minute interview.”

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Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.

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