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Who is Dr Oz, the Trump-backed celebrity doctor running for the GOP primary in Pennsylvania’s Senate race?

The cardiothoracic surgeon and best-selling author because a household name as a daytime TV wellness expert criticised for pushing pseudoscience

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 17 May 2022 20:11 BST
Polls are now open in Pennsylvania's primary election

A TV personality who became a household name watched by millions of Americans for wellness advice on datetime television is among Republican candidates seeking the party’s nomination for a closely watched Senate race in Pennsylvania, a critical battleground state.

Dr Mehmet Oz, whose controversial segments on The Oprah Winfrey Show and his own daytime programme promoted pseudoscience and misinformation-as-entertainment, joins a wave of GOP figures who have embraced Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda and earned the former president’s endorsement.

The Ohio-born doctor, whose parents emigrated to the US from Turkey, spent two years in the Turkish army to maintain his dual citizenship. He studied at Harvard University and obtained degrees from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Penn’s Wharton School.

His career, from renowned cardiothoracic surgeon and best-selling author to spurious medical expert, has been scrutinised in recent years for promoting products with dubious weight-loss claims and endorsing the use of hydroxychloroquine for treating Covid-19.

The doctor made a surprise turn into Pennsylvania politics last November, when he announced his campaign for one of two US Senate seats to represent the state in Congress.

The candidate is a longtime New Jersey resident; in 2020, he registered to vote at a Philadelphia-area home owned by his in-laws. He and his wife are renting the property while renovating a nearby multi-million dollar home purchased earlier this year.

Dr Oz described himself as a “Teddy Roosevelt Republican” in a 2008 interview that also praised Hillary Clinton and identified himself as “not socially conservative”. He also has previously supported abortion access and denounced the epidemic of gun violence.

Since making his announcement, he has supported a range of current right-wing platforms, including firing White House medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci and supporting the US Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade. He has also made Second Amendment rights central to his campaign.

The GOP primary winner on 17 May will face the Democratic challenger in the general election on 8 November.

If elected, Dr Oz would be the first Muslim member of the Senate.

(Getty Images)

His candidacy – which confounded political analysts by pivoting into the diners-and-guns optics of the campaign trail, let alone running in the first place – joins other controversial GOP figures seeking the party’s nomination in the Senate race, including former hedgefund executive Dave McCormick and 2020 presidential election denialist Kathy Barnette, who claims to have had a “wonderful time” marching in Washington DC on 6 January, 2021 as a pro-Trump mob stormed the halls of Congress.

At a recent Trump rally promoting his slate of candidates in the state, the celebrity doctor was repeatedly “booed” by people in the crowd. Dr Oz has refused to say whether he believes the 2020 election was rigged.

The former president, who has rewarded similar candidates loyal to his “stolen election” narrative with his endorsement, has rejected backing Ms Barnette, whose background is too controversial even for him; she “will never be able to win the General Election against the Radical Left Democrats” because she “has many things in her past which have not been properly explained or vetted,” he said in a statement.

He also suggested that – should his far-right base end up supporting her – she “will have a wonderful future in the Republican Party – and I will be behind her all the way.”

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