John Fetterman was born on August 15, 1969. He was raised in York, Pennsylvania by his parents, Karl and Susan, who were teenagers at the time of his birth. John’s father accumulated substantial wealth as the founder and owner of a York-based insurance agency called Kling Insurance, and the younger Fetterman has referred to his upbringing as “cushy.”
In 1991, John Fetterman graduated from Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania with a bachelfror’s degree in finance. He also earned degrees from the University of Connecticut (MBA, 1993) and Harvard University (MPP, 1999). Fetterman’s affluent parents paid for all of his formal education.
From 1993-1995, Fetterman was employed as a risk-management underwriter for a large insurance company called Chubb. From 1995-1997, he worked in Pittsburgh for AmeriCorps, an “independent” yet left-leaning agency of the federal government. And in 2001, Fetterman moved to the western Pennsylvania town of Braddock, where he was paid $33,000 per year to administer a GED life-skills program on behalf of students who dropped out of high school.
In 2005, Fetterman won the Democratic primary for mayor of Braddock by one vote in a three-person field. After subsequently winning the general election that November, he spent the next 13 years (2006-2019) as Braddock’s mayor. Because that part-time job paid a mere $1,800 annually, Fetterman was supported financially by his parents throughout that 13-year period. As the Meadville Tribune reports: “[F]or a long stretch lasting well into his 40s, [Fetterman’s] main source of income came from his parents, who gave him and his family $54,000 in 2015 alone. That was part of the financial support his parents regularly provided when Fetterman’s only paying work was $150 a month as mayor of Braddock, a job he held from his mid-30s until he turned 49. He lived in an industrial-style loft he purchased from his sister for $1 after she [had] paid $70,000 for it six years earlier.”
From 2006 through 2018, Mayor Fetterman missed at least 53 of Braddock’s monthly city council meetings — roughly a third of all the meetings which were held during that period.
In 2008 Fetterman married 26-year-old Gisele Barreto, whose mother had brought her illegally from Rio de Janeiro to the U.S. when the girl was 7 years old. Gisele Barreto was an illegal alien until she received her green card in 2004. She later became a U.S. citizen in 2009.
In 2008, Fetterman was one of a very few local Democrats who defended Barack Obama’s controversial smear of small-town Americans: “You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania,” said Obama, “and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” In response to Obama’s words, Fetterman told the local press: “It [what Obama said] is not patronizing, it is not condescending, it is not elitism. We need hope and we need a plan and we need someone who is not part of the system in Washington.”
From 2009 to 2011, Fetterman, despite being a part-time mayor of a mostly obscure rural town, was featured by various publications and news outlets that portrayed him as a charismatic, highly effective, and fascinating political figure. Some examples included feature stories in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian, CBS News, CNN, The Colbert Report, and Real Time with Bill Maher. In August 2012, the Obama administration honored Fetterman as one of its “Champions of Change,” in recognition of his commitment to “pursuing green urban renewal and economic development.”
During the afternoon of January 26, 2013, Fetterman drove his truck in pursuit of a black man who was running alongside a road — on suspicion that the latter may have been responsible for a series of gunshots which Fetterman had heard moments earlier. Fetterman eventually caught the man and confronted him with a 20-gauge shotgun, only to discover that the man had simply been out for a jog. Fetterman later explained to the media: “I didn’t know if it was a rampage. I didn’t know if it was a drive-by. I didn’t understand. No one could know what was going on at that point, other than a large number of shots were fired from what sounded like a high-powered rifle. At that point, I made a decision as a parent, and as a mayor, to intervene until the first responders could get there and sort it all out.”
Gun violence has long been among Fetterman’s top concerns as an elected official. One of the most physically imposing figures in all of American politics, the 6-foot-9 Fetterman has Braddock’s zip code – 15104 — tattooed on his left arm, while his right arm bears tattoos of the dates on which nine separate Braddock residents died as a result of street violence during his mayoralty.
In 2016, Fetterman signed a pledge drafted by an environmental watchdog group to promote: (a) a ban on fracking for oil and natural gas in Pennsylvania, and (b) an end to the granting of new leases for fossil fuel exploration across the United States. He also characterized the fossil fuel industry as a “stain” on Pennsylvania and its natural resources: “I am not pro-fracking and have stated that if we did things right in this state, we wouldn’t have fracking. The industry is a stain on our state and natural resources. … I signed the Food and Water Watch’s pledge to end fracking.”
Similarly, in a 2018 YouTube interview uncovered by CNN, Fetterman said: “I don’t support fracking, at all, and I never have. I’ve signed the no fossil fuels money pledge. I have never received a dime from any natural gas or oil company whatsoever.”
Below are some quotes with which Fetterman, on numerous other occasions as well, clearly and explicitly articulated his opposition to fracking. (To view video footage of Fetterman making these remarks, click here and begin watching at the 12:55 mark.)
In 2016 as well, Fetterman ran for a U.S. Senate seat representing Pennsylvania. He cited the socialist Senator Bernie Sanders as the inspiration for his Senate run. “When Sanders ran,” said Fetterman, “that opened up a level of awareness in this state, that the issues I care about can make a viable campaign.” The issue priorities of Fetterman’s Senate campaign paralleled those of Sanders’ Presidential bid at that time: combatting wealth disparities; reversing the decline of U.S.-based manufacturing jobs; implementing police and criminal-justice reform; protecting the legal recognition of same-sex marriages; and ensuring the “absolute protection of the right to safe and legal abortion.” Fetterman went on to lose the Democratic primary in April 2016 to eventual nominee Katie McGinty, capturing just 19.5% of the vote.
In November 2017, Fetterman decided to run for Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania. Receiving the endorsement of Bernie Sanders, he secured the Democratic primary with a 37.5% plurality of the vote in a five-person race where he defeated the incumbent Lieutenant Governor, Mike Stack, and three others in May 2018. Among Fetterman’s policy priorities were: the implementation of Medicare-for-all, stricter gun-control laws, a $15 minimum wage statewide, and measures to combat climate change (which he called “an existential threat to our existence here on this planet”). In the November 2018 general election, the ticket of incumbent Governor Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. candidate Fetterman trounced their Republican counterparts, Scott Wagner and Jeff Bartos, by a margin of 57.8% to 40.7%.
During an August 2018 speech which he delivered at the Pennsylvania Young Democrats Convention, Fetterman said: “We don’t want to criminalize. We want to get rid of cash bail where it’s appropriate so we don’t criminalize poverty, we don’t criminalize race, all these things that are wrong with our criminal justice system right now.” The elimination of bail, he explained, would mean that suspects accused of crimes would either be held in jail until their trial or released altogether.
Fetterman officially began his tenure as Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania on January 15, 2019. He also became chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, a panel that hears requests for pardons and the commutation of criminal sentences statewide.
In April 2019, the Wolf-Fetterman administration announced that convicted felon Brandon Flood, an African American who had recently been pardoned after serving 14 years in prison for a weapons violation, would join the state’s Board of Pardons as its new secretary.
In November 2019, Fetterman articulated his desire to release more criminals who had been sentenced to life-in-prison without a possibility of parole. Asserting that “we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to address this,” he added: “I think this is about justice. It’s the only thing I care about quite frankly from a personal standpoint, so intensely that I’m willing to do whatever it takes to push every limit and boundary, to make sure we don’t have hundreds if not thousands needlessly dying in prison.”
While Fetterman acknowledged, in a 2019 intereview with FOX43’s Grace Griffaton, the possibility that killers released from prison might subsequently go out and kill again, he made it clear that it was a chance he was willing to take. A key excerpt from the interview went as follows:
Griffaton: People on the opposite side of the spectrum are like “Well, what happens if one of them gets out and does something horribly wrong?”
Fetterman: It would be, it would be — first and foremost, it would be catastrophic and personally devastating if somebody hurt somebody. There’s always that possibility, theoretically. Thousands of people are paroled, so the vast majority of inmates cycle through and they re-emerge. So the idea that this is only unique to the commutations process, it’s just simply not true.
In November 2019 as well, Fetterman hired commuted felons George Trudel and Naomi Blount — who had spent a combined total of 68 years in prison for murder convictions — to serve as advisors helping prison inmates across the state of Pennsylvania navigate the process of applying for commutation of their sentences. Celebrating the work prospects of Trudel and Blount, Fetterman said: “This is the first time in the history of commutations in Pennsylvania, and possibly the nation, that former offenders will fill these roles. No one is more suitable for these positions than two people who have gone through the process and who have valuable institutional knowledge. We’re grateful to have them on the team.”
In public hearings throughout 2019, the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons voted on 41 potential commutations of prison sentences — the largest number of such votes in decades. Fetterman voted to commute the sentences in 30 of those 41 cases, and to deny commutation just 11 times. In January 2020, Fetterman acknowledged that whenever he was unsure about the merits of an individual’s commutation application, he generally gave the applicant the benefit of the doubt: “Only [Governor Wolf’s] pen can free an individual, and any one of ours [members of the Board of Pardons] can doom it. I say, err on the side of mercy and let the governor decide.”
On 27 separate occasions between 2019 and August 2022, Fetterman was the only member of the five-person Pennsylvania Board of Pardons to cast a vote in favor of a pardon or the commutation of a sentence.
In 2019, Fetterman, in his role as Pennsylvania’s Board of Pardons chairman, voted to free Charles Goldblum, who was serving a life-in-prison sentence for having: (a) participated in the killing of a man named George Wilhelm in 1976 by stabbing him 26 times with garden shears, and (b) subsequently hired a hitman to kill Clarence Miller, Goldblum’s accomplice in Wilhelm’s murder. Fetterman’s vote went squarely against the wishes of Wilhelm’s family.
The Board of Pardons ultimately ruled in favor freeing Goldblum, on grounds that he had not been the primary assailant in Wilhelm’s murder, but merely an accomplice. When Goldblum was released from prison in 2021, Fetterman, claiming that the former convict was “not a threat to public safety,” remarked that he (Fetterman) was “happy that he’s [Goldblum is] going to be going home to his family.”
Also in his role as chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, Fetterman in 2019 commissioned two reports about the 1,166 people statewide who were serving life-without-parole sentences for second-degree murder. During a subsequent press conference about one of those reports, he said: “I hope that it could lead to a conversation that would free close to 1,200 people of a legacy that never made sense.” Then, in May 2021 Fetterman asserted that mercy “must be a partner to justice,” and that freeing “deserving and rehabilitated” second-degree murderers from prison would provide “massive” savings for taxpayers. On a previous occasion, he had advocated for the termination of life sentences for people who had been convicted of second-degree murder but had not personally “pull[ed] the trigger” of the firearm used in the killing.
In 2019, Fetterman lobbied the Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolfe, to commute the prison sentence of a convicted second-degree murderer named Raymond Johnson, a 68-year-old who, by Fetterman’s telling, had “demonstrated 36 years of impeccable behavior” behind bars. Breitbart.com provides the following background on Johnson and the crime that landed him in prison:
“In November 1973, Raymond Johnson, along with Kenneth Wayne Smith, lured 27-year-old Charles J. ‘Blinky’ Jeffers to a residence in York County, Pennsylvania, where they shot and stabbed him to death before robbing him and attempting to dispose of his body. According to accounts at the time, Johnson referred to himself as ‘a son of the devil’ and had bragged about being a hit man who ‘had killed several people.’ A York County sheriff’s deputy testified in the murder trial that Johnson had threatened potential witnesses with murder if they testified in the case against him. Ultimately, Johnson was convicted in 1975 of Jeffers’ murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Three months After Fetterman’s lobbying efforts, Governor Wolf commuted Johnson;s sentence.
In April 2020, PennLive reported that “Fetterman said the state could cut its inmate population by one-third by releasing non-violent offenders and older convicts.”
In July 2020, Fetterman tweeted, “We could reduce our state prison population by 1/3, make us *no* less safe + save $1B a year.”
In an October 7, 2020 virtual panel discussing the Pennsylvania prison system, Fetterman stated: “I was on a panel with [Pennsylvania Corrections] Secretary [John] Wetzel earlier, before the pandemic hit, and he said something remarkable that I agree with. He said, ‘We could reduce our prison population by a third and not make anyone less safe in Pennsylvania.’ And that’s a profound statement.”
After the infamous death of George Floyd in May 2020, which set off a summer of violent riots led by Black Lives Matter and Antifa, Fetterman published an op-ed calling for “police reform” and “systemic change” in the Pennsylvania criminal-justice system. Some key excerpts:
In a November 2020 interview with Teen Vogue, Fetterman downplayed any possibility that a substantial amount of voter fraud may have occurred in Pennsylvania during the recently completed presidential election in which Joe Biden had defeated Donald Trump. “The one instance of [alleged] voter fraud in Pennsylvania was a Republican in Luzerne County, who tried to vote for his dead mom,” said Fetterman. He also stated: “I didn’t hear anyone on the Trump side complaining about election integrity in 2016. And now you are in a position where the media is acknowledging someone who is claiming election fraud from the world’s biggest microphone, without any proof. To me that is the metaphorical equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater. That is not protected speech.”
In the same November 2020 interview with Teen Vogue, Fetterman affirmed that President-elect Biden “understands” the “union way of life,” and that “as president, he is going to make sure that that’s sacred, and that’s defended.”
By January 2021, Fetterman had reportedly raised more than $500,000 for a potential run for one of Pennsylvania’s two U.S. Senate seats in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections. The following month, he officially announced his campaign for that seat: “I’m running for the United States Senate for the same reason I ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2018 and Mayor of Braddock 16 years ago, because I believe in a set of core truths. I believe in the dignity of work and the dignity of a paycheck…. I believe the union way of life is sacred. I believe in healthcare as a fundamental, basic human right. I believe in environmental justice, I believe our criminal justice system needs a significant overhaul. I believe that the war on drugs needs to stop and we need to legalize marijuana across this country. I believe that the LGBTQIA community deserves the same rights and protections that the rest of us enjoy in this country.”
By October 2021, Fetterman had raised $9.3 million for his Senate campaign.
Fetterman’s Senate Campaign Platform
Fetterman’s 2022 Senate bid featured the following major issue positions, as articulated on his official campaign website:
Calling for Elimination of the Senate Filibuster in Order to Ban Rifle Ownership & Open-Carry Laws
During a video interview on April 9, 2022, Fetterman articulated his wish to eliminate the Senate filibuster rule, so that Democrats would be empowered to force the passage of legislation banning not only the sale of rifles, but the “ownership” of such weapons as well. “That’s one of the main reasons why I called for the elimination of the filibuster,” he said. “Eighty to ninety percent of Americans support the elimination — excuse me — banning assault rifle ownership and common sense gun control legislation.”
On April 11, 2022, Fetterman stated: “I’ve always supported a ban to the assault rifle ownership. We should not have weapons of war in the hands of civilians.” “I have seen with my own eyes at the scenes in my community,” he added, “what a military grade round does to the human body. And we have no need for civilians to own those kind of weapons.” At the same April 11 event, Fetterman explained that the elimination of the filibuster rule would also be useful to the cause of terminating open-carry laws. “The truth is if a state that you’re in has open carry laws, there’s nothing that you, as senator, can do directly,” he lamented. “That’s the truth. Some of these states have open carry laws and it’s perfectly legal and a United States senator can’t directly intervene and change that. But what we can do is eliminate the filibuster and pass comprehensive gun reform legislation federally that supersedes and eliminates the option to have open carry.”
Fetterman’s Tax Policy Proposals
Fetterman also backed a wide array of proposed tax hikes. Specifically, he:
Notwithstanding his frequently articulated calls for tax hikes on Americans of all income brackets, Fetterman had a considerable history of failing to pay the taxes that he himself was responsible for. As WTAE Action News 4 of Pittsburg reported on April 7, 2016:
“Action News Investigates has learned that Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, has a history of unpaid taxes. Court records show dozens of tax liens filed against Fetterman and an organization he leads.…
“Over the years, Fetterman and a community group he heads called Braddock Redux have been hit with tax liens totaling $25,000.
“Fetterman owned houses in North Braddock until he sold them in the last few years. Court records reveal liens totaling $11,916 were filed against properties owned by Fetterman….
“Braddock Redux owns a former church and other properties. In 2008, Allegheny County sued Braddock Redux for failing to pay $2,376 in taxes and penalties. The suit was settled in 2012 after Braddock Redux appealed the assessment and the county reduced it. In total, Braddock Redux was hit with $13,214 in tax liens for the church and other properties including rowhouses, a house and a warehouse.”
In January 2022, Fetterman selected his former campaign political director, Celeste Trusty — a onetime volunteer for the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and a self-described “friend” to the Marxist icon, former Black Panther, and convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal — to become Secretary of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons. Like Fetterman, Trusty has called for the abolition of mandatory life-without-parole prison sentences for defendants convicted of first- and second-degree murders.
On May 13, 2022, Fetterman suffered a stroke that caused him to subsequently have problems with word retrieval and speech. He nevertheless pressed forward with his Senate campaign but declined requests to make his medical records public.
In the May 17, 2022 Democratic primary, Fetterman won his party’s nomination for the Senate race, capturing nearly 60% of all votes.
Fetterman’s Republican opponent in the Senate race was Mehmet Oz, the famous physician known to television audiences as Dr. Oz.
During the two months that followed his stroke, Fetterman stayed off the campaign trail almost entirely. His campaign consisted mostly of mocking his opponenent, Mehmet Oz, via Twitter posts. Nonetheless, by mid-June a USA Today/Suffolk University poll showed Fetterman leading Oz by 9 percentage points.
In June 2022, Fetterman was the lone member of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons to vote in favor of commuting the prison sentence of Wayne Covington — a man who in 1970 had pleaded guilty to shooting an 18-year-old over money that he (Covington) subsequently used to purchase heroin. Fetterman voted in favor of commutation despite pleas by the victim’s surviving family members that he not do so.
On July 28, 2022, thirteen Pennsylvania sheriffs issued a letter to Fetterman to express their “concerns” over his criminal-justice policy positions. Specifically, the sheriffs opposed Fetterman’s support for decriminalizing all drugs; his advocacy for the demilitarization of police; his calls for the release of one-third of Pennsylvania inmates; his preference for lowering bail for rioters and arsonists; and his endorsement of Larry Krasner, the George Soros-backed District Attorney of Philadelphia. The sheriffs also articulated their concern that Fetterman’s approach to criminal justice would exacerbate Pennsylvania’s already-escalating crime rates.
On October 11, 2022, the New York Post reported that Fetterman, in an interview with Dasha Burns of NBC News earlier that day — his first sit-down interview since his stroke five months earlier — had “struggled to speak clearly and needed a monitor with closed captioning to understand a reporter’s questions.” “We had a monitor set up so that he could read my questions,” Burns told MSNBC host Katy Tur regarding the Fetterman interview, “because he still has lingering auditory processing issues as a result of the stroke, which means he has a hard time understanding what he’s hearing. Now, once he reads the question, he’s able to understand. You’ll hear he also has some problems, some challenges with speech. And I’ll say, Katy, that just in some of the small talk prior to the interview, before the closed captioning was up and running, it did seem that he had a hard time understanding our conversation.”
On October 15, 2022, Fetterman’s campaign released a “medical report” from Pennsylvania Clifford Chen, a doctor who said he had been Fetterman’s “primary care physician” since May of that year. The report stated that Fetterman “is well and shows strong commitment to maintaining good fitness and health practices,” and that “he has no work restrictions and can work full duty in public office.” However, media reports subsequently revealed that Chen was by no means a politically neutral source. Indeed, he had donated a total of $830 to Fetterman’s 2022 Senate campaign with contributions of $100, $230, and $500. Moreover, Federal Elections Commission records showed that Chen had made at least 141 separate donations to Democrat politicians and Democratic Party fundraising organizations since 2019.
During his 2022 Senate campaign, Fetterman completely reversed his previous, longstanding opposition to fracking. That reversal was on stark display during a televised debate against his Republican opponent, Mehmet Oz, on October 25, 2022. When Fetterman was asked to explain his change of heart vis-a-vis fracking, he was unable to provide a coherent — or truthful — reply. Below is a transcript of the exchange he had with debate co-moderator Lisa Sylvester. (To view a video of the exchange, click here.)
John Fetterman: I absolutely support fracking. In fact, I live across the street from a steel mill and they are going to frack to create their own energy in order to make them more competitive. And I support that, living closer to anybody else in Pennsylvania for fracking to myself. I believe that we need independence with energy. And I believe I’ve walked that line my entire career. I believe Democrats-
Lisa Sylvester: Mr. Fetterman, I do have a specific question, which you can continue on this topic, but you have made two conflicting statements regarding fracking. In a 2018 interview, you said, quote, “I don’t support fracking at all. I never have.” But earlier this month, you told an interviewer, “I support fracking. I support the energy independence that we should have here in the United States.” So Mr. Fetterman, please explain your changing position. 60 seconds.
John Fetterman: I’ve always supported fracking and I always believe that independence with our energy is critical. We can’t be held ransom to somebody like Russia. I’ve always believed that energy independence is critical and I’ve always believed that, and I do support fracking. I’ve never taken any money from their industry, but I support how critical it is that we produce our own energy and create energy independence.
Lisa Sylvester: […] I do want to clarify something. You’re saying tonight that you support fracking, that you’ve always supported fracking, but there is that 2018 interview that you said, quote, “I don’t support fracking at all.” So how do you square the two?
John Fetterman: Oh, I do support fracking. I support fracking, and I stand, and I do support fracking.