Transcript: Sen. John Fetterman on “Face the Nation,” May 5, 2024

The following is a transcript of an interview with Sen. John Fetterman, Democrat of Pennsylvania, that aired on May 5, 2024.


MARGARET BRENNAN: That was our Mark Strassmann and we turn now to Pennsylvania senator John Fetterman. He joins us from Orlando, Florida this morning where he spent the weekend campaigning on behalf of President Biden’s reelection. Welcome to the show, Senator. 

SEN. JOHN FETTERMAN: Hi. Good to be here. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Great to have you here. You’re cracking up. Do you want to tell us what you’re responding to there?

SEN. FETTERMAN: Oh, that- that interview, that was- that was magnificent.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. Well, let me ask you about Democrats and your own party. I know you’ve been spending a lot of time on that this past weekend. You’ve been outspoken about these protesters we were just talking about with our reporter there. The Director of National Intelligence testified this week that there is no US intelligence that Hamas is influencing the protests in the US or directing it in any way. But I know you have said, while it’s a great American value to protest, I don’t believe living in a pup tent for Hamas is really helpful. Do you consider the flying of the Palestinian flag to be anti semitic? Or have you actually seen the Hamas flag in some of these protests?

SEN. FETTERMAN: No, no, I don’t think that but- but I will- I will say that these kinds of protests haven’t been helpful. And ironically, they are actually working against peace in the Middle East as well. And it’s also very strange to me, that now they’re not actually protesting for a ceasefire now, and there’s been a very valid ceasefire that’s been on the table now and Hamas has been refused to take that on. And I don’t know why we’re not- if we’re going to protesting, why aren’t we protesting that you’re demanding Hamas to take that kind of a ceasefire? And then that would- that would end all of the- the trauma and the chaotic going on there in Gaza.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, many of these young protesters are protesting against President Biden’s Israel policy, Israel being a recipient of U.S. taxpayer dollars and U.S. provided weapons. Hamas is not. Hamas is a designated terror group. So do you have any problem with the attempt to influence the President’s policy through protest?

SEN. FETTERMAN: Well, like I said, I don’t, I don’t, I will never support any kind of conditions on Israel during this. And again, I would, I am going to continue to center Hamas is responsible for all of that again, then. And now. If you’re going to protest on these campuses, or now what, they’re going all across America as well, too. I really want to, can’t forget, that the situation right now could end right now, if Hamas just surrendered. And they just sent all of those hostages home again. And that’s also a thing that I’ve been frustrated too, is now that those hostages should be really in front of the conversations about the situation in Gaza, sending them home would really, you know end, again, all of this immediately.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well understood, but these protesters, are you saying that by protesting the President’s policy, you just see any opposition to the President’s policy as Pro-Hamas? Or is it something specific that you have an issue with?

SEN. FETTERMAN: I mean, it’s perfectly- it’s perfectly normal, if you don’t agree with the President on this issue or many other issues. But it’s very strange that when we have this incredible, important election right in front of us, we’re about six months to go, and it’s really two stark choices. You have Joe Biden, an outstanding president and then you have Donald Trump, who’s actually now in a trial talking about bribing a former adult film star. And it’s really kind of a stark, stark contrast here and- and if you’re willing to walk away from Joe Biden, it’s inevitable- you’re actually supporting Trump. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I need to talk to you about other issues affecting this election on the other side of this break, so please stay with us senator. We’ll be back.

– COMMERCIAL BREAK –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face The Nation, we return to our conversation with Pennsylvania Democratic Senator John Fetterman. Senator, you said the other day that you’d vote for a Senate version of that House anti semitism bill. The ACLU said federal law already prohibits anti semitic discrimination and that this bill would chill free speech. Do these concerns resonate with you?

SEN. FETTERMAN: I don’t- I don’t disagree with that. I was one of the- the co-leaders and sponsors of that bill. So I’m, of course I’m gonna vote yes on that. And I think it’s a very valid concern that really allowed that- that- I mean, that’s an overwhelming vote, a bipartisan vote in the House as well. I think it’s- it’s- it’s a great bill, and I look forward to voting for it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But sorry, just to clarify, you agree with the ACLU saying that it’s wrong to equate criticism of the Israeli government with anti semitism?

SEN. FETTERMAN: No, well- I- I- I’m not really sure. What’s really the- I don’t I- don’t agree. I mean, I do think a lot of the criticism right now, during this the Gaza war, I think at its root does have some anti semitism there as well, too. Now, it’s, you know, you don’t have to agree with the Israeli government, but- but a lot of the protesting and a lot of the words that are- that are being thrown around on a lot of these campuses are actually very anti semitism.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yep. Okay. Yeah, I was just- the ACLU comment was on that House bill. That’s why I wanted to clarify that. So you, as we mentioned, have been in Florida for this democratic fundraiser. Our CBS polling shows that President Biden is in a really tight race in your home state of Pennsylvania with Mr. Trump. 61% of registered voters say the economy in Pennsylvania was better during the Trump era. 55% said Mr. Biden makes them feel worried versus 48%. Who say Trump. How tight is this race going to be?

SEN. FETTERMAN: Sorry we’re having a technical issue.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. I was asking you about CBS polling showing a very tight race in the state of Pennsylvania. Are you able to hear me sir?

SEN. FETTERMAN: It’s not- it’s not working.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. All right. I’ll ask one more time. Sir, if you can hear me.

SEN. FETTERMAN: Now it’s working. Now it’s working. Now I can, yeah

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. Sure. In the state of Pennsylvania, our CBS polling shows it’s going to be a very tight presidential race for Joe Biden to be reelected.

JOHN FETTERMAN: Correct.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The issue of the economy is of paramount importance and in your state, our polling shows there’s more confidence in Trump’s leadership on the economy than in Biden’s and this is very acute around the issue of oil and gas. How worried are you?

SEN. FETTERMAN: I’m not- I’m not worried about that. And I want to be very clear, Joe Biden beat- he beat Trump in Pennsylvania and he’s going to do that again. But it’s going to be very close. Absolutely. I’ve been calling that- I’ve been having that same conversation since 2016, that it’s going to be very competitive. And now oil and gas, of course that’s an issue, but it’s not going to be- it’s going to define the race and that’s for sure. Again, we have that two very stark choice between those two. And it’s- it’s very clear that it’s- it’s not going to be a defining factor for sure.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we’re gonna have a lot of focus on your state in the coming months. Senator, thank you for your time today. We’ll be right back.

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