John Fetterman’s comfortable upbringing undermines image, say Republicans
In its advertisements, and much of the public imagination, John Fetterman is a tattooed man from a rugged steel town outside of Pittsburgh.
The term “tough blue collar” flashes on one of his TV commercials like a grim-faced Fetterman poses in front of billowing chimneys. “He seemed different and was different his whole life,” said a narrator.
This character has long irritated Republicans, who say Fetterman’s distinctive visual cues leave the impression that he is more working-class — and more moderate — than he really is. Now, as Fetterman campaigns as the Democratic nominee from Pennsylvania for the U.S. Senate, Republicans are aimed at challenging its history and undermining one of its greatest political strengths. They say his image obscures his roots in a comfortable suburban family that provided him with financial security well into adulthood.
Public records show – and Fetterman has openly admitted this – that for a long time into his 40s, his main source of income came from his parents, who gave him and his family $54,000. in 2015 alone. It was part of the financial support his parents regularly provided when Fetterman is the only paid job was $150 a month as Mayor of Braddock, a job he held from his mid-30s until he was 49. He lived in an industrial-style loft that he bought from his sister for $1 after she paid him $70,000 six years earlier. .
“He’s a fake populist,” Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz, an ultra-wealthy TV star, said in a recent Fox News interview. “A lot of people think it’s because of the way he dresses in his hoodies and shorts that he’s worked his whole life. It’s quite the opposite.”
Fetterman, 52, grew up, in his own words, in a “cushy” environment in York County, with an education it helped him earn an MBA from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree from Harvard debt-free. He earned his undergraduate degree at Albright College in Reading.
Fetterman now earns $217,610 as lieutenant governor, a job he started in 2019, and his family’s assets exceed $700,000. His parents supported him financially for almost all of his 13 years as mayor, aide that he says authorized to devote himself to public service. He no longer receives this help, says his campaign. The campaign did not respond when asked if the $54,000 disclosed from 2015 was typical of his parents’ help.
Fetterman has long recognized his parents Support. He said he could have continued to live a comfortable life with a lucrative job, but made an abrupt change to focus on those less fortunate – including caring for an orphaned child, running a program to help high school dropouts and eventually becoming mayor of Braddock, a hard-hit steel town. He earned little money doing this and divulged his parents’ help during his 2016 Senate race, even when he was under no obligation.
“John has spent his career rolling up his sleeves and fighting for forgotten people and communities in Pennsylvania,” Fetterman spokesman Joe Calvello said, pitting the Democrat against “ultra-millionaire” Oz. “He dedicated his life to public service and helping others. John had a good job with good pay, but gave it up to focus on serving forgotten communities in Pennsylvania.
READ MORE: Who is Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman?
Fetterman’s rugged image and brutal style underpinned his rise from Braddock mayor to lieutenant governor and, now, Democratic nominee in one of the nation’s most crucial senatorial races. he even liked it featured in rolling stone (The Mayor of Hell) and a Levi’s ad campaign.
While Fetterman’s suburban childhood and the financial help of his parents was reported several timesRepublicans say those details were lost under his blue-collar brand.
Some liken his personality to a pro wrestling gimmick, complete with looks (once Dickies work shirts, now hoodies and athletic shorts), an origin story, and relentless trolling. Republicans hope his image fades under the intensity and scrutiny of Fetterman’s first major election battle.
“John Fetterman is not what he seems. He’s a sheep in wolf’s clothing,” said David Urban, a longtime Republican strategist in the state. “Nobody’s ever laid a glove on him. “
Bill Bretz, Westmoreland County GOP Chairman in southwestern Pennsylvania, added, “We need to debunk the myth he created about himself and talk about the platform he has.”
When Fetterman speaks about his family’s background during the election campaign, he often dates back to his father’s time store groceries at ShopRite.
But while the family didn’t start out wealthy, Fetterman’s father built a successful insurance business, providing his son with what Fetterman described as a protected childhood. For a while he seemed on track to resume insurance work.
He worked briefly as a risk management underwriter for insurance giant Chubb from 1993 to 1995, according to his campaign. But he says he took a sharp turn in his 20s, brought on by the sudden death of a friend in a car accident. Shaken, Fetterman says he was pushed to do something more meaningful and volunteered for Big Brothers, Big Sisters, where he mentored 8-year-old New Haven kid Nicky Santana, who had lost a parent to AIDS and would soon lose the other. to the same disease.
“I didn’t want to spend the rest of my professional career making my own situation even better than it was,” Fetterman said. told the Harrisburg Patriot-News in 2015a sentiment he often repeated. He often talks about the “Random Birth Lottery” that gave her an easy path and left Santana with so many obstacles.
READ MORE: John Fetterman says he’s not your typical politician. Is that enough in a brutal climate for Democrats?
He then joined AmeriCorps in Pittsburgh, went to Harvard to get a master’s degree in public policy, then moved to Braddock to lead a GED and life skills program for high school dropouts, a job that pays $33,000, according to his country.
His family helped keep him financially afloat after 2006, shortly after he became mayor, a job with few formal responsibilities and a salary of $1,800 a year. He held the position from 2006 to early 2019.
The only publicly disclosed aid, reported in Fetterman’s first Senate race, showed four gifts of $13,500: Each parent gave that amount to Fetterman and his wife, Gisele. The support was just below the $14,000 threshold for taxable donations at the time.
Fetterman’s family also provided significant funding to start a nonprofit organization, Braddock Redux, which he used for civic and charitable projects in the city, including, according to his campaign, a coat drive. winter, a grant for surveillance cameras and a tombstone for a murdered 2. -Age. His campaign said that after his early years the “vast majority” of the charity’s funding came from outside his family.
Fetterman and his supporters dismiss criticism of his background, particularly because he takes on Oz, a daytime TV celebrity who passed on July 4 party with other stars in the Hamptons.
“It’s a silly conversation that you can’t even have with someone, and with a party, that knows nothing about the working class,” said state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, a Democrat from Philadelphia who ran against Fetterman in the Senate primary but is now campaigning for him. “They only know workers who are their employees.”
ounces may struggle to launch attacks on Fetterman’s image.
The GOP nominee himself has been overwhelmed with questions about his authenticity, given his long New Jersey residency, his sometimes-controversial medical advice and apparent policy shifts on a range of issues once he became a candidate.
The accomplished cardiothoracic surgeon is the son of a surgeon and attended a prestigious preparatory school before going to Harvard, then earning medical and business degrees at the University of Pennsylvania. His wife is part of one of Pennsylvania’s wealthiest families and together they are worth at least $104 million, and possibly several times more, according to campaign disclosures.
READ MORE: Mehmet Oz is worth at least $104 million and possibly much more, says new report
Among other properties in New York and Turkey, they have two multi-million dollar mansions in North Jersey, another in Palm Beach, a beef farm in Florida worth over $1 million, and a recently purchased home in Montgomery County for $3.1 million.
Fetterman wondered how someone with such immense wealth could relate to an average Pennsylvanian facing tight budgets. On Monday, he posted a video showing the celeb talking about his bespoke suits and his extensive travels.
Fetterman’s assets total between $717,000 and $1.58 million, according to the financial disclosure report he filed in May of last year. Much of this sum, between $450,000 and $1 million, is in the bank accounts of his three children. (Senate financial disclosures only require candidates and senators to report ranges of values for their assets).
Republicans counter that Oz, although far wealthier than most people, is building his own career, and that it’s Fetterman whose image doesn’t match his reality.
“There’s a lot of potential there,” said Peter Towey, a GOP strategist, “if they can make the case that John Fetterman isn’t who he claims to be.”