After Fox News host Tucker Carlson decided to mock Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman for his physical appearance — including both Fetterman’s habit of wearing hoodies and his multiple tattoos — the Democratic Senate candidate struck back with a scathing editorial penned for NBC News that demolished the far-right opinion-monger by simply explaining the meaning of each of his inkings.
Earlier this month, Carlson vomited up a nearly 20-minute-long rant deriding Fetterman’s “stupid little fake tattoos,” downplaying them as a “costume.”
In his op-ed responding to Carlson’s very personal critique of his body branding, Fetterman embarrassed the vapid Fox News talking head with his detailing of the reasons for his tattoos and what they actually mean to him.
“I have nine dates tattooed on my right forearm. Each one is a day on which someone died violently in Braddock, Pennsylvania, while I was mayor. Gun violence and violent crime might be jokes to someone like Carlson, but they are very real to people in towns like Braddock,” Fetterman wrote.
Fetterman, whose unconventional style of blue-collar attire is far from that of a typical politician, went on to discuss the individual meanings of some of the body ink inscribed on his arms.
“The first one that I tattooed on my arm is ‘01.16.06.’ That’s the date on which Christopher Williams was shot dead while delivering pizzas. This was a man about my age at the time. He had a 12-year-old daughter. I just couldn’t get over the fact that he was never going home to her,” the Democratic Senate candidate wrote.
“Another tattoo reads ‘02.03.07,’ the date that 23-month-old Nyia Page was found dead after her father sexually assaulted her and left her in the bitter cold. Her tiny footprints in the snow led an officer to her body. And I have ‘09.16.13,’ the date Derrail Roilton, a father of two, was found dead in the yard next to his mother’s home after being shot three times.”
Fetterman decries the fact that gun violence has become so normalized that it has been reduced to a mere “talking point in our elected leaders’ speeches.”
“That’s why I have these tattoos. They are not some “costume.” They are reminders of the people we have lost and what I am fighting for. Both the dates on my right arm and the “15104” on my left — Braddock’s ZIP code — are personal to me,” Fetterman declares.
“My decision to mark these deaths with tattoos was inspired in part by their permanence — the fact that these people, their stories and my town will be with me forever. I get that etching art permanently onto your body isn’t how most politicians would express their connection to their communities. But I didn’t care about what anyone else thought. It felt right to me.”
Fetterman goes on to explain how he worked to ensure that Braddock, Pennsylvania, went 5 ½ years without a gun death while he was mayor of the town, calling it his “proudest accomplishment in public service.”
While the opinion column was framed as a response to Tucker Carlson, Fetterman also used the opportunity to compare his record as Braddock mayor to the background of his competitor in the Pennsylvania race for the U.S. Senate, Republican candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz.
“While he was making millions of dollars peddling miracle cures from a TV studio in Manhattan and living in a mansion on a hill in New Jersey, I was rolling up my sleeves and putting in the work to make my community safer. I’m the only candidate in this race who has fought violent crime and won,” the Democratic contender wrote.
Fetterman concludes his op-ed with a statement that summarizes why his tattoos are so important to him and how they will affect his future behavior as an elected official.
“The stories of the people whose lives we tragically lost still are with me every single day — not just on my arm but in every decision I make as an elected official. They remind me of why I am here and why I’m doing this,” Fetterman reminds voters.
Hopefully, Tucker Carlson and Dr. Oz will read the Pennsylvania Lt. Governor’s unapologetic defense of his tattoos and realize what they are up against in this mid-term election: a genuinely empathetic elected official with a track record of success and a persona that appeals to a wide cross-section of Keystone State voters.
Let’s hope that Fetterman prevails.
Original editorial by John Fetterman at NBC News.
Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.