NBC News harmed the disabled community by conducting an interview with Senate candidate John Fetterman that promoted a Republican ableist smear.
Here is a video clip of the interview conducted by Dascha Burns that was based on the premise that Fetterman requires the use of closed-caption technology due to an auditory processing issue caused by a stroke:
Pennsylvania Lt. Governor and Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman sat down with @DashaBurns in an exclusive interview using closed captioning.
Fetterman discussed his recovery after suffering a stroke in the primaries and his race against Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz. pic.twitter.com/0fee1cKXgY
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) October 11, 2022
NBC Nightly News based their entire interview around how John Fetterman’s disability and his need for assistive technology make him unfit for office. NBC tried to paint Fetterman’s disability as a disqualifying factor or a concern for voters in Pennsylvania.
An Expert On The ADA, Pennsylvania, And Political Science Responds To NBC News
Readers may already be aware that I have Cerebral Palsy. I am also a trained political scientist with a specialization in industrial and labor relations with specific training in the Americans with Disabilities Act. I have even devised and administered a course for workplaces about the ADA, accessibility, and hiring practices involving disabilities.
The NBC News interview was discriminatory to John Fetterman and the disabled community. Dascha Burns, the interviewer, was not interested in Fetterman’s policy positions but instead wanted to talk about the candidate’s temporary disability and use it as a factor that should give voters concern.
The interview was based on the discriminatory premise that persons with disabilities are less fit for employment.
NBC Nightly News might also be surprised to find out that a deaf individual couldn’t hear their questions without hearing aides. They would also be shocked that a person with mobility issues might need a wheelchair or that a person with an unseen disability might need assistance in some way.
Fetterman uses assistive technology, at least temporarily. Gov. Greg Abbott also uses assistive technology, and so do Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Madison Cawthorn. Every over the age of 80 member of Congress who needs visual or auditory assistance is in the same situation as Fetterman.
The difference is that Fetterman’s issue is temporary. He is expected to make a full recovery, and his auditory processing issue will resolve.
NBC Nightly News pushed a stereotype about differently-abled persons that they are somehow less qualified if they need assistance in any way. The network has done damage and harm to the disabled community.
NBC News Should Apologize For The Interview And Send Everyone Involved For Ableist Training
Apologizing for the interview is not enough. The mainstream media lacks disability community representation, and so every NBC News employee needs to be required to attend training to understand and resolve their ableism.
The media allowed Donald Trump to get away with mocking a disabled reporter in 2016, and the mainstream press spreads cultural stereotypes about differently-abled persons that create barriers to employment and full participation in society.
John Fetterman should demand an apology, but also NBC News should apologize for smearing the entire American disabled community with the most explicit example of media ableism and discrimination that I have ever witnessed.
The 61 million American adults who are living with a disability deserve to be respected and heard.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association