The campaign for Mehmet Oz, a PennsylvaniaRepublican candidate for U.S. Senate, did not inform media outlets that a woman Oz consoled at a “community discussion” in September was actually the campaign’s Philadelphia County coordinator, The Intercept reported.
Oz spoke with Sheila Armstrong, who had shared a photo identifying her as a campaign aide in June, and comforted her as she described the shooting deaths of her brother and nephew, severalPhiladelphia-area news outlets reported.
The Associated Press highlighted the event in a story this week and described “chairs arranged a bit like [Dr. Oz’s] former daytime TV show set” and the candidate asking Armstrong how she copes with the tragic deaths. The story was framed around the efforts by Oz and his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, to win over Black voters. Armstrong is Black.
Brendan McPhillips, Fetterman’s campaign manager, tweeted this week that the AP story didn’t note that Armstrong was “a paid staffer” and that records with the Federal Election Commission back up his assertion that the Oz campaign paid her, The Intercept said.
Barney Keller, a senior advisor to the Oz campaign, condemned McPhillips’ comments on Armstrong “in the strongest possible terms” and referred to them as “racist attacks.”
“For a white man to attempt to diminish the experience of an African-American woman – who lost her brother and nephew to gun violence – because of her support for Doctor Oz plays into tired tropes about Black women not being able to think for themselves. John Fetterman should apologize.” Keller wrote in a statement to HuffPost.
Armstrong, who admitted she organized and wrangled RSVPs ahead of the Oz campaign event, was on the campaign’s payroll, earning more than $2,000 at the end of June, according to FEC data.
None of the Philadelphia media outlets noted Armstrong’s ties to the campaign, according to The Intercept, and the AP later updated its story to mention her ties.
“As soon as AP learned of Armstrong’s campaign affiliation and confirmed it, we updated our story,” a spokesperson for the news wire service told The Intercept.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has also updated its story to address Armstrong’s involvement in the Oz campaign, according to The Intercept.
The Oz campaign also allegedly didn’t extend an invitation to Fetterman to attend the “community discussion,” which Pennsylvania state Rep. Chris Rabb (D), who attended in protest, described as a “fake town hall,” despite Armstrong’s on-video claim that she had invited Fetterman.
HuffPost has reached out to Armstrong for further comment.