Speaking about Dr. Oz, a friend recently asked, “Why would someone give up fame, fortune and respect to become a senator?” The question seemed as relevant as ever after watching the soul-destroying Pennsylvania Senate debate last night.
As sometimes happens, my mind bounced around from the debate to Dr. Oz’s questionable medical tips to another prominent New Jersey denizen and his rock anthem. After suffering through it, like Bon Jovi said, “It’s gonna take more than a shot to get this poison out of me.”
With “Bad Medicine” firmly stuck in my head, I watched in fascination as Dr. Oz did his best imitation of Dr. Evil (“I didn’t spend six years in evil medical school just to have people call me mister”), and I thought about “The Dr. Oz Show” and his early Oprah appearances.
It’s easy to forget Dr. Oz is a world-class heart surgeon, who until recently had privileges and professorship at one of the world’s leading teaching hospitals and universities. How could a Columbia University professor and vice chair of the Columbia University Medical Center surgery department have fallen so far? Whoops – former Columbia surgeon and professor.
But it’s not just his recent foray into MAGA politics that’s hidden his more admirable medical experience from view. And we shouldn’t be surprised at what Oz’s political candidacy has revealed. In 2015, the recommendations, claims and guidance he peddled on “The Dr. Oz Show” led to a formal outcry from 10 of his Columbia peers, who called for his resignation from the university.
His defense offered a preview of the bizarre arguments to come: “We very purposely, on the logo, have ‘Oz’ as the middle, and the ‘Doctor’ is actually up in the little bar for a reason. I want folks to realize that I’m a doctor, and I’m coming into their lives to be supportive of them. But it’s not a medical show.”
And while Dr. Oz-as-MAGA-hero might seem out of, er, left field to those not watching closely, his snake oil show moments suggest he’s been prepping for this operation for years. While his entirely discredited “miracle” weight loss products might have been an honest (ha) mistake, the same can’t be said for his more damaging claims. He shared on national TV that his children wouldn’t be vaccinated against the H1N1 virus and that Ebola virus go airborne.
To be fair, Oz was certainly more surefooted when warning viewers about arsenic levels in apple juice than when answering questions about gun laws, abortion, fracking and jobs. And he discussed a $15 minimum wage with the clarity and sensitivity of Marie Antoinette – or a world-class heart surgeon. He said, “John Fetterman thinks the minimum wage is his weekly allowance from his parents,” but we might never know what Mehmet Oz really thinks about it because he said that wages should rise throughout the private sector, but a mandatory wage increase would force businesses to close.
Against almost any other candidate, the debate should have flatlined Oz’s Senate hopes. Unfortunately, John Fetterman didn’t do anything to quell concerns about his post-stroke health. So now, all we can do is watch, wait and see whether the man with questionable health or the medical doctor with questionable ethics wins out. Either way, something tells me Dr. Oz doesn’t have the cure for what ails Pennsylvania or American politics.