Skepticism

Oprah Fights Back… Against Woo Pushers? Wha?

Oprah and Dr. Oz have filed a lawsuit with more than 50 online advertisers who have been using their name and likeness to sell all kinds of useless-woo based products via the web. (Thanks to Infinite Monkey for bringing this to our attention.) I’m sure you have run across at least a few of the intrusive Oprah/Oz product pushes in your browser or on google.

There are Oprah/Oz ads running all over the inter-webs for everything from colon cleanse and acai berry products to my favorite alt-med supplement, resveratrol. I actually first came across this story aDelicious Pinot Noir Photo by Amy few months back when I was doing some research on resveratrol for the community driven Skeptographers podcast. On a side note, for those of you who may not be familiar with the Skeptographers, do check them out. It is a great way for you to actually participate in a community driven, skeptical podcast without having to do any serious editing. For those of you not familiar with resveratrol, it is the chemical found in red grape skins and in smaller amounts in peanuts. Which means it’s found in red wine. Anyone who knows me knows I love me some red wine, so I have been following the studies hoping to justify my pinot noir intake. (No such luck, yet.)

Dr. Oz gave resveratrol supplements a big push on the Oprah show by adding them to his daily “anti-aging checklist” and insinuating it would help you live to be 125 years of age. Of course there is no evidence for this and while the chemical is showing great promise in current studies on mice for liver disease, among other possible benefits, there is no evidence at this time that the current supplements do anything more for people than cost a lot of cash. Regardless of the potential shown in mice, we need to wait for human trials. The supplements can in fact lead to complications for certain people and can interact with certain allergy medications and anti-platelets, but who cares about silly facts when Dr. Oz and Oprah say it’s great? Barbara Walter’s had a hand in the resveratrol boom as well, but truly it was Oprah and Dr. Oz that the majority of the world was looking to with trusting eyes.

A lot of sleazy advertisers are very aware of the power of Oprah and have hijacked her and Dr. Oz’s In Woo We Trustname and likeness to push a plethora of crap-based products. Some of the sites have been set up complete with voiceovers done by actors to sound like Oprah and some of the sites are portals to apparent credit card scams. I have to admit at first I was pretty convinced Oprah and Dr. Oz endorsed the ads based on all the unscientific ideas and products that are spewed forth from the Oprah-verse on a daily basis. However, during my resveratrol research I did come across this on Oprah’s site:

Neither Oprah nor Dr. Oz is associated with nor do they endorse any specific resveratrol product, company or online solicitation of such products. Any companies that misrepresent their affiliation are making false claims. Harpo attorneys are pursuing companies that claim such an affiliation

And then this statement released on Wednesday in regards to the federal lawsuit (via Reuters):

These defendants are willfully capitalizing on plaintiffs’ valuable reputation and intellectual property rights to lure consumers into ordering their infringing products on the false premise that they have been tested or recommended by Ms Winfrey and/or Dr Oz when they have not. The suit claims the actions had “gravely injured” their reputations.

And as much as I dislike Oprah for all she has done to destroy logic and reason and for her endless promotion of spiritual-positive-thinking-horseshit that has brainwashed a million stay-at-home-moms, at least she is going to (hopefully) get the douchebag online woo-scammers to take down some of their ads for a little while. Now, if we could just convince her to be a bit more skeptical…

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Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics. She is the fearless leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Follow her on twitter: @SurlyAmy or on Google+. Tip Jar is here.

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35 Comments

  1. Woohoo wine war! I am more than willing to participate in a taste test! Feel free to send me your favorite wine and I will let you know which one is most delicious… oh and please send cheese too. :)

  2. Oprah is worse than Disney about anyone using her image. She actually threatened legal action to a former guest that used a photograph of them together taken after the show as his christmas card!

  3. The suit claims the actions had “gravely injured” their reputations.

    Gravely injured? Really?

    @Bookitty: Yes, they are “special little snowflakes”, because they’re on TV! People on TV are better than us, right?

    @Amy: We shall wage our war with cheeeeeeeeese!

    BTW, I’m a big fan of Oregon Pinot, specifically those from Willamette Valley area. Went on a wine-tasting tour out there some years back and they were all so good, particularly paired with Crater Lake Blue from Rogue Creamery. Yum!

  4. Wine War – Barolo. Anything less would be wussified.
    Cheese War – Venezuelan Beaver Cheese. But only made from raw Venezuelan beaver milk. Pasturizing the beaver milk also kills the fresh sapling flavor.

  5. Wine war – Swiss, ie. neutral. Can’t stand the stuff.

    Cheese war – I was about to go on about the superiority of English cheese over the North American varieties, until I remembered that my favourite cheese at the moment is Canadian Cheddar.

  6. This is pure anecdote, but bear with me.

    My mother told me she used to watch Oprah in the 80s and enjoyed her show then. She remembers when Oprah decided that she would lose weight and recalled that she practically starved herself to death to do it and all the meanwhile promoted things that seemed a bit off to my mum. Once Oprah completed her regimen, she started getting very antagonistic in her messages about those who were overweight. Then after a while Oprah started putting on the pounds again and seemed to have completely forgotten everything she had said before. My mum said she had to quit watching because she couldn’t believe she had the nerve to do such a thing.

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