Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman stumbled during Tuesday’s debate with his GOP challenger, Dr. Mehmet Oz, after he was asked about prior statements he made in opposition to fracking, a process he now says he has “always supported.”
“I’ve always supported fracking and I always believe that independence with our energy is critical, and we can’t be held, you know, ransom to somebody like Russia,” Fetterman said. “I’ve always believed that energy independence is critical and I’ve always believed that — and I do support fracking, never any money taken from their industry, but I support how critical it is that we produce our energy and create energy independence. “
Pressed on the issue and how to “square” his previous comments against fracking with his current position, Fetterman said, “I do support fracking, and I don’t, I don’t — I support fracking, and I stand, and I do support fracking.”
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Fetterman, currently Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, supported a complete moratorium on fracking in the state, according to an April 2016 Facebook post from Pennsylvania Voters Against Fracking.
He also said during a 2016 debate, during his first run for Senate, that he supported a fracking moratorium.
In a 2018 YouTube interview, Fetterman said, “I don’t support fracking, at all, and I never have.”
“I’ve signed the no fossil fuels money pledge,” he added at the time. “I have never received a dime from any natural gas or oil company whatsoever.”
In addition, as previously reported in July, Fetterman called the Pennsylvania fracking industry a “stain” on the state and recounted his own “extremely privileged” upbringing in Reddit posts during his unsuccessful 2016 run for Senate.
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“I’m not pro-fracking and have stated that if we did things right in this state, we wouldn’t have fracking,” Fetterman wrote in one Reddit post. “The industry is a stain on our state and natural resources. But yes, of course I worry about the viability of getting a ban on fracking done when the industry is already so entrenched in Pennsylvania,” he said, adding that he had “signed the Food and Water Watch’s pledge to end Fracking.”
Contrary to previous remarks he had offered related to fracking, Fetterman and his campaign have walked back his past support for anti-fossil fuel leasing policies.
“John does not support a fracking moratorium or ban. If you were paying attention to our campaign, you would have known this has not been his position for years and that he was attacked in the primary over his support of fracking,” Fetterman campaign spokesperson Joe Calvello told Fox News Digital in a July email. “In fact, throughout his career John has stood up to politicians to fight for US Steel’s right to build fracking wells.”
“John believes that we have to preserve the union way of life for the thousands of workers currently employed or supported by the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania and the communities where they live,” he added.
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Pennsylvania is the second-largest producer of natural gas in the US behind only Texas, according to the Energy Information Administration. Driven largely by its natural gas production and power plant generation, Pennsylvania is the largest electricity exporter in the country.
Fetterman, who said a near-fatal stroke in May, said in his opening remarks that he might miss words during the debate due to his ongoing auditory processing recovery.
The Pennsylvania Senate election between Fetterman and Oz will be held on Nov. 8.
Fox News’ Thomas Catenacci contributed to this article.