NBC News’ Dasha Burns Responds to Criticism of Her Interview with Pennsylvania Senate Candidate John Fetterman

By A.J. Katz 

Dasha Burns, an NBC News correspondent who has been covering the Pennsylvania senate race closely for the network, recently interviewed Pennsylvania Lt. Governor and Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman. The two-part sit-down was billed as the candidate’s first in-person interview since suffering a stroke over the summer.

In addition to his public policy positions and what he’d potentially bring to the U.S. Senate, a substantial portion of the interview focused on an in-depth discussion about his recent stroke and then a larger conversation about his state of mind at the time of the interview.

There was also the rare occurrence of the candidate using closed captioning during the interview, something Burns said Fetterman’s campaign required in order for the sit-down to happen.


“Fetterman’s campaign required closed captioning technology for this interview to essentially read our questions as we asked them,” Burns told Lester Holt on Tuesday’s broadcast of Nightly News. “And Lester, in small talk before the interview without captioning, it wasn’t clear he was understanding our conversation.”

The second part of that sentence set off a significant number of Twitter users, including media figures who had previously interviewed Fetterman. Was Fetterman not “fully there,” as Burns seemed to insinuate?

On the other side, multiple political reporters seem to feel Fetterman’s recent stroke could be problematic for his campaign and think that voters could be turned off by the prospect of voting for someone who seems to have a disability. But is that true? Does a disability (in this case, a stroke) hinder someone from performing an important job, in this case that of a U.S. senator?

Burns has responded to some of the most high-profile critics. Nightly News also released the full, unedited version of the interview.

NBC’s Today aired the second part of the interview Wednesday. Savannah Guthrie appropriately asked Burns about the criticism she has been receiving, and she responded.

Guthrie: Other journalists who have also dealt with Fetterman came forward and said they had a different experience.

Burns: Yeah, that’s completely fair Savannah, that was their experience, we can only report our own. I will say it’s important to note that according to the campaign itself, our team was first to be in the room with Fetterman for an interview rather than via video conference and myself, my producer and our crew did find that small talk before that captioning was difficult because of those auditory processing issues I mentioned. Stroke experts do say that this does not mean he has any cognitive impairment. Doesn’t mean his memory or his cognitive condition is impaired, and he didn’t fully recover from this. And once the closed captioning was on, he was able to fully understand my questions throughout that 25-minute interview which we will publish later today.