Fetterman, Flashing a Sharper Edge, Keeps Picking Fights With the Left

Senator John Fetterman was hard to miss, lumbering down an empty hallway in a Senate office building dressed in his signature baggy gym shorts and a black hoodie. So when Stevie O’Hanlon, an environmentalist and organizer from Chester County, Pa., spotted him recently, she took the opportunity to question her home-state senator about a pipeline in her community.

Mr. Fetterman’s reaction was surprisingly hostile. Raising his phone to capture the confrontation on video, the senator began ridiculing her.

“I didn’t expect this!” Mr. Fetterman said, feigning excitement. “Oh my gosh!”

As Ms. O’Hanlon politely pressed him on what she called his “change of heart” on the issue of the local pipeline, which he had previously opposed, Mr. Fetterman pulled faces of faux concern until he stepped onto an elevator and let the closing door end the interaction.

Ms. O’Hanlon, a co-founder of the progressive Sunrise Movement, was stunned.

“I’ve talked to Republicans who are much friendlier than that,” she said in an interview, after a clip of the interaction circulated widely on social media. “The person that we voted for is not the person who mocks constituents when they bring up concerns.”

Ms. O’Hanlon is not the only one wondering who Mr. Fetterman has become. Since last fall, the first-term Democratic senator from Pennsylvania has undergone a significant change in political persona. He routinely takes aim at the left wing of his party that he once courted — and appears to enjoy the spasms of anger he produces because of it, as well as the strange new respect he commands from right-wing media outlets that once dismissed him as a vegetable and lobbed sexist attacks at his wife.

Mr. Fetterman’s sharpest break with the left has been on the Israel-Hamas War. A firm backer of Israel before the war, he decided early in the conflict that he would offer unconditional support for Israel and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. He has relentlessly hewed to that stance, at times provocatively.