Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Conservative talk show host who got Trump to back Dr Oz insists he can still win despite series of setbacks

Television personality has been pumelled like no other candidate, outspoken supporter tells Andrew Buncombe

Monday 12 September 2022 18:35 BST
Dr Mehmet Oz, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, speaks in Springfield, Pennsylvania, on 8 September 2022
Dr Mehmet Oz, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, speaks in Springfield, Pennsylvania, on 8 September 2022 (AP)

Dr Mehmet Oz has been pummelled like no other Senate candidate and is going to rebound to beat Democrat John Fetterman, who ought to more accurately label himself “a communist”.

That, at least, is the opinion of Philadelphia conservative talk-show host John Fredericks, the man who reportedly persuaded former president Donald Trump to endorse Oz, and who has also given him his own backing.

“It was a very tough primary,” Fredericks tells The Independent.

“Look, the guy has taken $50m of incoming negative ads in seven months. There's no Senate candidate in history that has undergone this level of negative fire. And he's still standing and that race is virtually tied.”

He adds: “Oz is going to win the race.”

Fredericks, with his rapid-fire delivery, does not claim to provide a disinterested, or non-partisan perspective.

On his morning show that airs five days a week from 6-10am, he provides the kind of hard-line, Maga-infused rhetoric expected from someone who backed Trump as far back as 2015, and whose show is called Outside the Beltway and who uses the hashtag #GodzillaOfTruth.

“You’re listening to Outside the Beltway. I'm John Fredericks, your blow torch for free speech in America,” he started one recent broadcast, before turning his attention to Joe Biden’s signing of the “inflation increase act”.

Later, he promised listeners, he would be talking about the “victims of illicit drugs as they're pouring in, from all over the place right now at the southern border at record numbers”.

Polls actually suggest Oz, 62, who became a household name in America after he appeared as a doctor on Oprah Winfrey’s show and used it as platform to supercharge his career, is facing a very tough fight in Pennsylvania.

An average collated by the right wing Real Clear Politics gives Fetterman a 6.5 point lead, and lists the race as “toss up”, while the non-partisan Cook Political Report with Amy Walter says it “leans Democrat”.

Biden won Pennsylvania by a narrow 1.7 per cent in 2020, recapturing it for Democrats who lost it to Trump in 2016 by a similarly slim margin.

Yet Fredericks claims he can make up the gap.

“There's no question that with all the money on negative ads, Oz can’t go down anymore,” he says.

Fetterman, 53, suffered a stroke on the eve of the Democratic primary in May, when he defeated congressman Conor Lamb and state representative Malcolm Kenyatta.

He has not fully returned to campaigning, and rather clever attacked Oz on social media and with television adverts, labelling the television celebrity as a super wealthy out-of-towner, given he most recently lived in New Jersey and only moved to Pennsylvania to allow him to contest the Senate race.

Dr Oz blames viral gaffe on 'exhaustion'

For some time there were questions as to whether Fetterman would take part in three scheduled debates that are due to take place before election day on 8 November.

Yet this week, Fetterman told Politico he would be taking part.

“We’re absolutely going to debate Dr Oz, and that was really always our intent to do that,” he said.

“It was just simply only ever been about addressing some of the lingering issues of the stroke, the auditory processing, and we’re going to be able to work that out.”

Fredericks says there are legitimate questions to be asked about the Democrat’s health. When Fetterman’s campaign mocked Oz for a TV spot filmed in the produce aisle of a grocery store, the Republican hit back, saying if the Democrat “had ever eaten a vegetable in his life, then maybe he wouldn’t have had a major stroke”.

“I think it's a legitimate issue. Look, when you are having trouble doing basic functions and you don't want to debate because you've got health issues – I mean, I think that's going to be an issue in the campaign.”

John Fetterman recently appeared at an event with Joe Biden (AP)

Fredericks claims the bigger issue for Fetterman is his brand of politics.

While many observers might label the former Lt Gov as a liberal member of the Democratic Party, the radio host claims he is far further to left.

“Here's the main issue: John Fetterman is a communist, John is an avowed Marxist. This is the most radical left wing, Marxist candidate, probably in the history of America leading a Senate race,” he claims.

“This guy is to the left of Bernie Sanders. At least Bernie Sanders has some reasonable positions. This guy wants to lead criminals out of jail, he wants to legalize all drugs, he wants to arrest corporate executives and business owners for raising prices. I mean, that's right out of Karl Marx.”

Fetterman has proposed legalising cannabis but not all drugs He has supported eliminating mandatory life sentences for people convicted of second-degree murder but not “eliminate all life sentences for murderers” as Oz’s campaign has claimed.

On the issue of committing price gouging, Fetterman’s campaign website says: “It’s time we crack down on the big corporations who are making record profits while jacking up prices for all of us. We need to prosecute the executives of huge corporations, including the big oil companies and meatpacking companies who are artificially driving up prices, gouging consumers at the pump and at the grocery store.”

Fetterman’s campaign did not respond to questions from The Independent.

One issue on which there is little debate is the importance of Pennsylvania in the upcoming election, the seat having become open after Republican senator Pat Toomey said he was not running again. (The other senator is Bob Casey, a Democrat.)

Democrats are keen to win the open seat as they try to hold onto the Senate, while Republicans will probably require it if they are to flip the upper chamber.

Millions of dollars have already been spent on the race, while many strategists think Republicans would have had a better chance if Trump had not endorsed Oz and the party’s candidate had been someone such as David McCormick, a CEO who adopted a more mainstream position but narrowly lost to Oz in the primary.

“All roads to a Senate majority for the Republicans and for America first leads through Pennsylvania,” says Fredericks.

“You absolutely have to win Pennsylvania. You know the math.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in