Gisele Barreto Fetterman Says She's Received '10 Times' the Hate Mail as Husband John Fetterman
In an op-ed for Elle, Gisele opened up about the increasingly "vicious" attacks she's seen since her husband began openly seeking treatment for depression
Gisele Barreto Fetterman is opening up about the "vicious attacks" she's received in the weeks since her husband, Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman, checked himself into Walter Reed to seek treatment for clinical depression.
In an exclusive op-ed for Elle, 41-year-old Gisele says she's received "10 times" the amount of hate mail as her husband, who won the Pennsylvania Senate race in November over Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz. During the heated campaign, John was hospitalized after having a stroke.
But it was in February, when the now-senator announced he was seeking professional help for clinical depression, that the couple and their children's world "exploded," Gisele writes.
Related:John Fetterman Checks Himself into Hospital for Clinical Depression: 'Getting the Care He Needs'
"Media trucks circled our front yard," she writes in Elle. "Our kids were home from school, hurting. So I did the first thing I could think to do: Packed them in the car and drove."
It was on the banks of Niagara Falls, Gisele writes, that she and her kids "had that time together to process this difficult moment as a family."
Even amidst the chaos, the attacks didn't stop, however.
"John suffered a stroke during his Senate campaign, so I already knew how cruel people could be about judging someone's health and using it as a weapon," she writes. "But I'll admit, I was surprised to find that this time the vast majority of the harassment wasn't directed toward John—but at me."
She continues: "On social media, people accused me of kidnapping the kids and running away to Canada. They promoted conspiracy theories claiming I was an ambitious, power hungry wife, secretly plotting to fill his Senate seat. It was all so wildly preposterous."
Related:John and Gisele Fetterman Open Up About His 'Public' Stroke, Raising Kids on the Campaign Trail: 'No Regrets'
The threats quickly escalated, Gisele writes, after members of the right-wing media began to publicly attack her. "Candace Owens called me an 'absolute monster' on Fox News. A Washington Examiner column claimed I was failing my husband. Threats against me and my family multiplied in frequency, volume, and severity, including active threats of harm."
Elsewhere in the op-ed, Gisele details the vitriol she has received since even before her husband was a national figure, going all the way back to his time as mayor of Braddock, Pa.
In the intervening years, Gisele writes that she has been falsely labeled as a "mail-order bride," and criticized for her looks and her immigration journey (she is from Brazil and officially became a U.S. citizen in 2009).
The attacks increased when her husband was elected senator. "As soon as John's political profile began to grow, I started receiving hate mail—ten times more than John ever got himself," she writes.
Related:'I Was Shaking': Gisele Barreto Fetterman Films Woman Calling Her Racial Slur Outside Grocery Store
Writing that the attacks mirror those on other public women, like Meghan Markle and Hillary Clinton, she calls them "exhausting." But she isn't interested in growing a "thicker skin," or "fighting fire with fire" (an apt metaphor, consider Gisele recently became a volunteer firefighter).
"I like my big feelings; the ability to feel so deeply is beautiful. My empathy drives my career and provides me with purpose and hope," she writes.
She continues: "What we can do is continue to live with love every day. To show gentleness and compassion to everyone, including ourselves. To reject their venom wholesale, and be wholly, independently who we're meant to and want to be."
Related:Gisele Barreto Fetterman, Wife of Sen. John Fetterman, Spotted Fighting Apartment Fire in East Pittsburgh
Gisele married John in 2008 and they share three kids together: Karl, Gracie and August. The two first connected after Gisele wrote him a letter inquiring about Braddock, Pa., where he was mayor at the time, and the efforts to revitalize the community.
Originally from Brazil, Gisele received her green card in 2004, four years before her marriage, and became a U.S. citizen in 2009. She has devoted her life to helping others, with a focus on nutrition, food equity and meeting Pennsylvanians' basic needs.
As she sees it: "Try as we may, we can't fight fire with fire. We can't out-hate a force set on denying our essential humanity. And even if I could, I wouldn't want to carry that torch. What we can do is continue to live with love every day. To show gentleness and compassion to everyone, including ourselves. To reject their venom wholesale, and be wholly, independently who we're meant to and want to be. Because we are enough—exactly as we are."
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