Pennsylvanians had ‘no idea that John Fetterman was in this bad of a condition’ until they watched him on the debate stage this week, reporter Salena Zito tells Glenn. And when those voters became 'angry' when they realized that they’d been lied to — by both the media AND other Democrats in office. Zito shares with Glenn how most journalists covered up Fetterman’s health by simply ‘omitting [it] as an issue,’ and she explains why she believes Dr. Oz will win in the end…
Below is a rush transcript that may contain errors
GLENN: Let's go to Salena Zito. Hello, Salena. How are you?
SALENA: Hello, sunshine. How are you?
GLENN: You sound tired. Been working hard?
SALENA: I sound like -- I have the (inaudible) thing going. That's called spending a lot of time on the road and talking to a lot of people.
GLENN: Thank you for that, by the way. You're the Washington Examiner political reporter. You're also a columnist for the New York Post and the coauthor for the Great Revolt, which explained what happened in 2016. You get it, because you actually talk to people.
GLENN: You wrote an amazing article, that has been just come out. The painful story on how John Fetterman arrived at Tuesday night's humiliation.
I read it on the air, just last hour. I want to get to that. But I first want to get your reaction on what are people saying -- what are the voters saying? What's really happening on the ground there?
SALENA: Well, you know, funny story. I drove all the way out to the debate, from Pittsburgh, to Harrisburg.
I got there. Realized that the only people that I would be watching the debate with, was other reporters. And I'm like, yes. I'm not going to learn anything here.
So on the way back, halfway across the state. And stopped in a bar. And just sat back, and observed people watching the debate. And I think the most powerful saying, about watching those reactions, was watching the realization under cases that they had no idea, that John Fetterman was in this bad of a condition. They understood, because he would do a rally here or there. Spoke a couple of times. They understood there was somewhat of a problem.
But they didn't -- they thought it was speech-related, as opposed to cognitively related. And when he was put into a position where he had to answer questions, and provided all the tools available to him, and he still struggled, they now realized, nobody has been telling them this. I mean, I have. Dasha Burns has. But that's about it. All the other reporters have just omitted that this is an issue. And so as they were talking among each other, they were really frustrated and angry, at my profession for not being -- demonstrating exactly what the problem is. And being honest with what they've seen over the past couple months. But also, really mad at other Democrats like Senator Bob Casey, who stood on the dais, with him, in about half a dozen events. Maybe more. And talked about how terrific shape he is in. And he even had the audacity to go on national news after the debate, and say, he did a terrific job. And you add that with the Philadelphia Enquirer saying, he won the debate. And CNN saying he won the debate. And -- and -- and you add all that together, and -- and there's this sort of invisible and quiet thing with voters saying, y'all are gaslighting us, and we all are tired of it.
GLENN: So is it going to change the way -- we are so set in our camps now, that I wonder if anything would change anybody's minds? Would this change their mind?
SALENA: Yeah. Absolutely. I saw it happening in realtime. Look, one of the things that was so important about the book, the Great Revolt. Is that it was understood, this coalition. And this conservative populace coalition. That formed, long before Donald Trump ever stepped on the stage.
And remained intact. You look at Pennsylvania, in 2020. So what happened?
Joe Biden won. Joe Biden won barely. What people did not talk about, was that there was a significant red wave down ballot in their own congressional races.
In the statewide Roe office races. In the statehouse, in the state Senate. That coalition remained together.
Once again, proving that this was not about Trump. But it was about their lives. Their communities. And how they were impacting. And I think that remains to be the underlying -- or, the story that is consistently missed in -- in reporting. And I'll give you an example of that. The other day, did you see the Kentucky coal miner, who came -- was --
GLENN: Yes. Yes.
SALENA: Okay. By the way, that's the thing I see all the time. To me, that's like, yeah. That's what people do. Everybody was like, oh, my God.
That image started to be shared across social media, at the exact same time, the Washington Post wrote a story and said, why rural Americans are so angry and resentful, and why they're voting Republican.
And I thought, this is the perfect example. These two moments together, of how my -- my profession does not understand the very people that they're covering.
That coal miner was angry or resentful that he had to go through the game like that. He was appreciative that he had a job to go to, and the ability to leave that job and go sit in a basketball game.
GLENN: Yeah. So you -- you bring up in your -- wait a minute. Before I go on to this. The polls show that Oz is now up two to three points. Normal times, I would expect that to be six, seven, eight.
Who knows. But what are you thinking about?
Is Fetterman going to win? Is there going to be enough space between them?
SALENA: Look, here's the challenge for Fetterman. And, by the way, I've been reporting this since September. Dr. Oz, who I'm incredibly skeptical of, in the beginning, when he first announced he was running. Has actually proved -- and matured as a very good candidate. Someone who goes into those places. As I call the middle of somewhere. And -- and talks to the voters, that nobody thinks about.
And I listens to them.
I have logged on thousands of miles in the back roads with Oz. Watched him in rural areas.
Watched him in a majority, minority areas. Just listening to voters. Who, by the way, no other reporter would be. So he's not there to get a photo-on. No one is there. I'm there.
And -- and he's actually doing it, because he wants to understand what the issues are.
So that was a long way of telling you, that I have always thought, that John Fetterman was losing voters. Incrementally. But losing them.
Remember, he was up 12 percentage points.
SALENA: But he also has no ability to gain voters. And it's not just based on his -- on his illness.
You know, I've been doing. I don't know if anybody is reading it. But I've bin reporting that as mayor, the whole sort of elevated story that you saw in the Atlantic, New York Times. These glossy, beautiful pieces about how he saved this bureau in southwestern Pennsylvania.
I've been covering him since 2005. He didn't say that then. He was barely ever there. He did these events. He really had very little power to begin with. Crime went up. Population declined.
And the heart and soul of that town, the hospital, where there was the only sitdown restaurant, for people to go to in the cafeteria. Was -- was torn down.
I hope people go down to SalenaZito.com and read the reporting I've been doing. I know I'm not on social media. But that reporting has been -- has been there for --
GLENN: So I saw the -- I saw the story on that, when it came out. And how do the people of the town feel, when they're hearing, hey, he saved our town?
SALENA: Well, that was the beauty of that story. That wasn't me telling everyone that. That was them saying that. They talked about how their town didn't get better. They talked about how no jobs getting in. They talked about the people who have fled, to get out of there. Because there's no hope, and there's no opportunity. And they talked about it always being just about him. And never about them.
And they talked about him going after one of their neighbors. A young black man, who was jogging. And he put a shotgun to his chest, and kept him there. Because he thought he was some sort of --
SALENA: Yeah. And, by the way, that young man's life has been destroyed. That young man's life has been destroyed. And he has never been apologized to, or the time that he went up to a local bar, a nightclub, owned by the way -- by a black -- and changed the wording on the sign, at 2 o'clock in the morning. And a camera caught it. Saying that it was closed. And not open. Because he deemed it unworthy to be opened in the town.
These are the stories, that people of Braddock County. Not the stories. Not me saying this, this is them saying this. That's why the reporting is so important.
Let alone, that he didn't pay his taxes. In in the poorest school district, in the state. He didn't pay the school tax.
You know, it's -- it's -- it frustrated me. Every time all these stories were put out there. With him standing in front of the steel mill.
At the same time, his parents were paying for his education. I mean, paying for his family's lifestyle.
GLENN: It's -- you know, it's amazing to me.
He reminds me of -- in many ways, of Karl Marx. Karl Marx was a horrible human being. That never paid a dime of his own way.
He -- he practically bankrupted his parents. He lived off his parents, and then his family for his whole life. Never really accomplished anything.
SALENA: Oh, my gosh. That's -- that's astounding. I can't even imagine, not wanting to have purpose in your life, in that way.
GLENN: I know.
SALENA: Other than the purpose of power. Which is what I believed that it has always been about.
GLENN: So Salena, hang on just a second. If you want to hold for one minute, I want to do a commercial, and then come back.
And I want to talk about the press and the Democrats that have stood by. It's what you brought up, in your latest article on the Washington Examiner. And I would love some answers on, what do you think is really happening there?
We'll go to Salena, return with her in 60 seconds.
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Ten-second station ID.
GLENN: Okay. So we're talking to Salena Zito.
SalenaZito.com is her web address. But she writes for the New York Post, and also the Washington Examiner.
When in 2016, when you nailed what was happening, you were the only one that the media went, how did she get this so right?
And you wrote a book about it. You went to work for CNN, as a contributor there. And I know you Salena.
I know you probably walked in, at first, hoping that people will actually listen and get it. And then they didn't.
And thus, they're down the toilet, even more.
Why are they not looking -- why are they not exposing things like Fetterman? Are they afraid?
Or are they afraid of being ostracized by their own -- their own group. Or is it -- is it that they just won't do it, because they're on the bandwagon.
SALENA: Oh, so. I have an entire chapter, about this in my book. And I think it's probably one, that people should really -- it's called a culture craving respect.
And the problem with my profession, is the same problem, that you see in corporate America. In major news organizations.
Also these institutions, and governments. But also even in sports organizations.
In that, the people in the boardroom, all come from the same -- they all live in the same super ZIP codes.
What do I mean by super ZIP codes? The wealthiest counties in the country. They all went to the same great schools. Now, they may have come from Iowa. But they left that far behind once they got to DC or New York.
So what happens is, when they go to, whether it is to write a story or do a commercial. Or make a bone headed decision, like the NFL did.
And let Colin Kaepernick do whatever he wanted. Despite having a contract, that said, you cannot do this, is because they don't -- they are so disconnected from the people who read their stories, who buy their tickets, who sit in their seats.
That is the larger problem. Right? That's where the problem begins.
It began at the same time, where more companies kept buying up smaller companies. So there's less local connection to the people who buy your products.
But also, local news organizations. Started to shudder. And so, people had to gravitate to buying their items, and/or reading their news. From places that don't know them.
They don't know anyone that sits in a pew every Sunday. They don't know anybody that says a prayer before dinner. They don't know anyone that owns a gun. They don't know anyone who uses a gun.
And so because of that, when they plop into a place, they -- it's -- they seem like a freak show. They look at the people, and say, y'all are freak shows.
GLENN: So I have one minute. I have one minute.
The reporter, that her job was threatened. I mean, she was just beat up by everybody from NBC.
GLENN: Yeah. Is -- and she folded.
Was that a message? Did everybody who was covering this know clearly how bad Fetterman was?
SALENA: Yes, they did. I was still -- watched them watch the same things I did. They knew. They always knew.
Dasha Burns is a very good reporter. And I will sing her praises forever. Because she has kept on that story, and she continues to keep on that story. I would keep an eye on her. And I think it's interesting, that as a young woman and a 63-year-old grandma, that they have the nerve to write this stuff.
GLENN: One last question. Ten seconds. Is Fetterman going to win or Oz?
SALENA: I don't think so. I think it's definitely Oz.
GLENN: I hope you're right this time. Thank you so much, Salena. God bless, and we'll follow your reporting. SalenaZito.com.