Controversial TV presenter Dr Oz launches GOP campaign for Senate seat in Pennsylvania

TV star’s name recognition could make him a top contender for nomination

John Bowden
Tuesday 30 November 2021 20:03
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Dr Mehmet Oz, the TV star whose embrace of pseudoscientific claims has made him a controversial voice still turned to by millions for health and wellness advice, is now jumping into the race to represent Pennsylvania in the US Senate.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported early on Monday morning that Dr Oz would likely make an announcement soon, potentially before the end of this week, citing multiple sources among state Republican Party insiders. Hours later, the TV doctor made his plans official in an op-ed carried by the right-leaning Washington Examiner.

“During the pandemic, I learned that when you mix politics and medicine, you get politics instead of solutions. That’s why I am running for the US Senate: to help fix the problems and to help us heal,” he wrote in the op-ed.

His writing made it clear that his campaign, despite a pledge to “help us heal”, would play in to the culture war-style politics pursued by other GOP candidates around the nation.

“We must confront those who want to change the very soul of America and reimagine it with their toxic ideology,” Dr Oz wrote near the end of the op-ed.

Representatives for Dr Oz did not immediately return a request for comment from The Independent. His campaign manager, Casey Contres, told Politico that the launch of Dr Oz’s Senate bid would be accompanied by a “multimillion dollar ad buy”.

He will likely be a top contender for the nomination if he can shrug off concerns about being a political newcomer as well as some past statements that have drawn criticism from medical experts for not being based in factual science. The race is currently beset by a lack of Republicans with wide name recognition in the state compared to the Democratic field, which is shaping up to be a battle between the state’s lieutenant governor, a congressman, and a member of the state House of Representatives.

Dr Oz could also face questions about why he is running to represent a state in which he only recently began voting. He voted absentee in Pennsylvania’s elections last year following years of living in New Jersey.

On his syndicated show, the TV star has endorsed products such as “green coffee extract” and other homeopathic treatments for various issues that are either totally unproven or lack solid scientific studies to back up the claims made by their supporters.

In the case of green coffee extract, Dr Oz was repeatedly berated by former Sen Claire McCaskill at a Senate subcommittee hearing in 2014 after he claimed on his show that the bean extract “has scientists saying they've found the magic weight-loss cure for every body type”.

“The scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of those three products that you called miracles,” Ms McCaskill told him during the 2014 hearing, referring to his words about green coffee extract and two other products. “When you call a product a miracle, and it's something you can buy, and it's something that gives people false hope, I just don't understand why you need to go there.”

At the time, Dr Oz described his role as being “a cheerleader for the audience”, while defending the claims he made on the show even as he admitted that “oftentimes they don't have the scientific muster to present as fact”.

His entry in the Pennsylvania Senate race could widely reshape the race; while not an outspoken loyalist to former President Donald Trump, he nevertheless served as an unofficial adviser to the former president on the issue of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Republicans took a major blow earlier this month with the departure of Sean Parnell, widely considered to be the GOP frontrunner, who stated upon exiting the race that his Senate bid was distracting (and conversely, being distracted by) a vicious custody battle with his estranged wife.

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