A disability advocate told Buzzfeed News on Wednesday that NBC’s interview with Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman will increase “violence” against disabled people.
“The way Burns handled that interview will only worsen attitudes and violence towards disabled people in a time when virtual accommodations are being removed left and right after they were implemented overnight in 2020,” Charis Hill told the outlet.
Hill called on NBC to apologize for “overt discrimination.”
NBC reporter Dasha Burns’ interview with Fetterman aired on Tuesday. While previewing the interview on MSNBC’s “Katy Tur Reports”, Burns said Fetterman had “a hard time understanding what he’s hearing.” Fetterman used closed-captioning during the interview.
Fetterman suffered a stroke in May and many have questioned whether he is fit to serve as a U.S. senator.
“I was stunned to see how the coverage of his use of captions was so riddled with ableism,” president and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities Maria Town told Buzzfeed. “The interview was deeply upsetting to see.”
Burns told co-host Savannah Guthrie on Wednesday that “before the interview without captioning it seemed it was difficult for Fetterman to understand our conversation.”
Guthrie pushed back on Burns and said other journalists have argued that they had a different experience with Fetterman.
“Yeah, and Savannah, that’s completely fair that that was their experience. We can only report our own,” she responded.
Burns drew criticism from several reporters who said they had a different experience with Fetterman.
“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,” Vox’s Kara Swisher wrote on Twitter.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Fetterman’s health was not a problem and that he was capable to serve.
“I was on the phone with him yesterday, had a long conversation with him,” Durbin said. “I’ve seen him in Chicago, invited him to come in for a fundraiser. John is ready for this job.”