John Fetterman Has Had Eight Years To Apologize For Pulling a Shotgun on a Black Jogger in 2013, But Still Refuses. Why?

Illustration for article titled John Fetterman Has Had Eight Years To Apologize For Pulling a Shotgun on a Black Jogger in 2013, But Still Refuses. Why?
Screenshot: MSNBC

It’s not completely accurate to say that Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has recently emerged as a nationally renowned darling of liberals, mainly because it’s a status he’s possessed since he was the mayor of Braddock, Pa. But his star has risen in the past several months, as more Americans have come to recognize this man, who seems to look and act less like a politician and more like a lab-generated algorithm concocted to win 400 electoral college votes.

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Just under 7 feet tall and tatted up, he could pass for a pro wrestler or someone John Wick might struggle with in a hallway. But he’s also a Harvard grad, an Americorp alum, and a tireless advocate for progressive policies—including police reform and the legalization of marijuana. His wife, Gisele, is also very active politically and was an undocumented immigrant. He checks each box for the sort of politician Democrats would want to combat, and even win some votes from, Republicans. I mean shit, can you imagine Trump or some dickwad like Josh Hawley trying to bully him? 

Unfortunately, Fetterman’s savior status appears to have gone to his head. In 2013, while he was still mayor of Braddock, he heard some gunshots fired near his home. He then pursued and pulled a shotgun on a man he saw running, believing he was responsible for the shooting. The man, 28-year-old Christopher Miyares, was unarmed, dressed in jogging clothes (because he was literally just out for a jog), and Black. Fetterman claims that he reacted this way after making “a series of split-second decisions” and that he was uncharacteristically anxious because Miyares was running near a school and the incident happened not long after the Sandy Hook massacre. But this, almost verbatim, is a script from the Zimmerman School of Vigilante Apologia. Let’s say Miyares, justifiably spooked by a 7-foot, shotgun-wielding man stalking him in a pickup truck, “struggles” with Fetterman. How easily could he have been another murdered Black man memorialized by a hashtag?

It’s been eight years since this incident, and Fetterman is now running for U.S. Senate. Predictably, the shotgun story has resurfaced. This would appear to be an easy opportunity to express sincere contrition, reflect on how much he’s learned and grown since then, and even insert a line or two about “unconscious bias” or “white privilege” or whatever. He could’ve even released one of those non-apology apology statements, where he says shit like “I acted hastily” or “it was a regrettable thing” or “mistakes were made.” But Fetterman has done neither and has gone as far as to blame “a bunch of Republicans who have never given a damn about racial justice” for the resurfacing of this story—a shockingly myopic statement that ignores the fact that many of his Black constituents want answers from him too.

There can only be two reasons why, after he’s sat on and thought about this for eight years, he still refuses to apologize, and neither is good. The first and most obvious is that he sincerely believes he did no wrong, which means he thinks he’s Motherfuckin’ Charlie Bronson. And then, well, maybe he knows he fucked up, but believes an apology would show a weakness that the GOP would pounce on. Either way, Fetterman is exhibiting an abject lack of consideration and care for the Black people in his state. And if he can’t at least recognize and acknowledge his own bias and privilege and why that mattered so much here—even if he believes he pursued Miyares in good faith—he’s, well...he’s just another white man. Which makes him a perfect (and predictable) liberal darling.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

DISCUSSION

murrychang
Murry Chang

And yet he’s probably still the least racist politician in PA.

We fought for the North in the Civil War but it’s really hard to tell sometimes.