Gisele Barreto Fetterman, married to a former mayor and lieutenant governor who is now a US senator, regrets how “mean” the US political scene has become, saying: “I still hate politics.”
The wife of the Democratic Pennsylvania senator John Fetterman was speaking to MSNBC in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday.
“I still hate politics,” Barreto Fetterman said. “I don’t know how I ended up here … I hated what it has become. And I think it can be very different of course and we need to elect the right people to change that. But it’s just so mean.”
Barreto Fetterman came to the US from Brazil when she was seven, traveling with her mother and brother, without documentation.
“After 15 years of living in the shadows,” her official biography says, “Gisele received her green card in 2004 and became a United States citizen in 2009.”
She married John Fetterman in 2008, when he had been mayor of Braddock for two years. In 2019, the 6ft 9in populist was elected lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania. In 2022 he won a US Senate seat, defeating the TV doctor Mehmet Oz, the Republican candidate endorsed by Donald Trump.
During a campaign which quickly turned nasty, Fetterman suffered a stroke. After taking his seat in the Senate, he was hospitalised with depression. His wife, who has acted as his spokesperson, became the subject of rightwing attacks.
In November, Barreto Fetterman told the New Republic: “The right wing hates women. They especially hate strong women, and I think that’s what you’re seeing.
“The fact that a spouse of a senator-elect has been attacked nonstop for the past 24 hours and everyone’s OK with it, and everyone thinks it’s normal … It’s not normal.”
She also told the magazine: “Since entering the Capitol for training, my inbox has been completely filled with threats and horrible things. And that’s because I’ve been [on] loop on Fox News.”
In her new MSNBC interview, on Inside with Jen Psaki, Barreto Fetterman told the former White House press secretary she was “so proud” of her husband for seeking treatment for depression.
“I mean, it’s so courageous, right, and we always read in the news about when something tragic happens to someone. And instead I want to read about someone talking openly about seeking help.”
Of rightwing attacks against her, she said: “Entering this world of politics that I happen to fall into, people would always say, ‘Don’t worry, Gisele, you’re gonna toughen up, you’re gonna get a thicker skin.’ And it was never like, ‘We’re going to address the issues.’ It’s like you’re going to become stronger to deal with them.
“I’m just like, ‘I like my skin. It’s just fine. I don’t want a thicker skin. Let’s talk about the actual issues, not how we should … become stronger to carry this weight.’”
Asked why she thought she was attacked and threatened more than her husband, Barreto Fetterman said: “I think it’s the immigrant part of it. I think it’s easier to attack women, right? Women are just a target.”
Barreto Fetterman said she wanted her attackers to know “that I can take it. Again. I’m fine. But there are millions of young women, young girls that are watching this, and maybe making decisions that are not what they want for fear that they’re next. And that’s harmful.”
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