NYT Flip-Flops on Sympathy for Sick Senate Candidates

October 21st, 2022 2:03 PM

The New York Times drips with understanding when it comes to the health problems plaguing Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman, but their sympathy turns to snideness when it comes to the dissociative identity disorder diagnosis of Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s Friday edition story on Walker, a football legend, appeared under this snide headline: “Walker Says He Has ‘Overcome’ Mental Illness, but It’s Not So Simple, Experts Say.”

Stolberg seemed to hint that Walker was using his mental illness as a convenient excuse.

Confronting a barrage of accusations about his personal life -- including claims he threatened women and paid for an abortion despite his public opposition to the procedure -- Herschel Walker has repeatedly invoked his history of mental illness in his defense.


But experts say Mr. Walker’s assertion that he has “overcome” the disorder is simplistic at best: Like other mental illnesses, dissociative identity disorder cannot be cured in the classic sense. Psychiatrists say that while patients can learn to manage this disorder -- and even live symptom-free for extended periods -- the symptoms can recur, often triggered by stress.


Mr. Walker’s retelling does not account for other complicating details. Experts say the disorder does not cause violent behavior. Some of the episodes -- including an ex-girlfriend’s accusation that he had threatened her -- took place after Mr. Walker claimed to have his disorder under control.

Stolberg relayed Democratic attempts to make Walker’s mental problems a political problem.

Democrats have said Mr. Walker’s description of his mental illness does not fully explain his previous behavior. In a statement, Mr. Warnock’s campaign manager, Quentin Fulks, said only that Mr. Walker had “not given Georgians an honest accounting of his violent past.”

Health issues have been front and center for other candidates this year; in Pennsylvania, John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate for Senate, is facing questions from Republicans about whether he is fit to serve after a stroke. Even Republican strategists say Mr. Walker should answer similar questions.

Fair enough. The problem is that when the impaired Democrat Fetterman faced questions, the media, including the Times, circled the wagons in his defense. Some outlets even went after mainstream media reporters who dared question Fetterman’s fitness for office.

The same paper that pushes “Long COVID” and demands surgery for “transgender” teens to cure gender dysphoria has suddenly recovered its skepticism about medical disorders.

Dissociative identity disorder has long been the subject of intense debate; some psychiatrists say it is vastly over-diagnosed, and others have questioned whether it exists.

Strangely, Stolberg later conceded:

Dr. Appelbaum, who is also a past president of the American Psychiatric Association, said there was a consensus in the field that D.I.D. is “a real phenomenon, a real disorder.”

Stolberg did give Walker credit for raising awareness.

By contrast, coverage of Fetterman’s cardiomyopathy condition in the Times was both sympathetic to the Democrat and hostile to his Republican rival Dr. Mehmet Oz, who “seized on the issue.”

Other encouraging headlines made the impaired Fetterman’s case for him: “Fetterman Hopes to Return to Campaign Trail Soon, as His Recovery Continues” and “Fetterman Says Stroke Problems Have Not Slowed Down a ‘Normal’ Campaign.”