Well, I have good news and I have bad news. First the good news: in 2022, the medical misinformation machine known as “The Dr. Oz Show” will finally go off the air after 13 seasons. Now, the bad news: the show is ending because Dr. Mehmet Oz is running for political office.
That’s right, there is obviously a serious dearth of political representatives in American politics who are reality TV stars, so honestly it was either Dr. Oz or Snookie. Like Snookie, Dr. Oz is a lifelong resident of New Jersey, but unlike Snookie just last year he changed his voter registration to his in-laws house in Pennsylvania, just after Pennsylvania’s Republican Senator Pat Toomey announced that he would be retiring. What a coincidence that Dr. Oz, a celebrity multi-millionaire, would happen to move in with his in-laws just in time to become eligible to run for Senate!
As a doctor (with a real degree!) and reality show host, Dr. Oz doesn’t have any experience serving in office. However, he does have experience in Congress: back in 2014, he was invited to chat with Claire McCaskill about deceptive practices in the advertising of weight-loss products. This was relevant to Oz because he had recently promoted the “green coffee bean” diet on his TV show, saying there was a new “miracle cure” that anyone could take to lose weight without diet or exercise, and research showed it worked.
The “research” in question was a small study of 16 people paid for by Applied Food Sciences, a company that was hoping to sell green coffee pills. This study was later retracted after it was the subject of an FTC complaint, the press release for which called it “so hopelessly flawed that no reliable conclusions could be drawn from it.” Applied Food Science settled with the FTC for $3.5 million.
This wasn’t out of the ordinary for Oz’s show – he was always promoting some pseudoscience. But in this case, it became an even bigger issue when the FTC went after the “expert” Dr. Oz featured on his green coffee episode: Lindsey Duncan, who claimed to be a doctor despite only having “alleged degrees” in naturopathy from an unaccredited university. The Dr. Oz show reached out to Duncan asking if he knew anything about green coffee beans. He answered in the affirmative despite having no actual experience with them. He then rushed to have his company start selling the beans, and edited Dr. Oz’s own script to have him direct viewers to Duncan’s website to buy the supplements. Dr. Oz did this without asking any questions. And then Duncan did it again by promoting black raspberry as a “top cancer-fighting supplement.”
So it wasn’t exactly a shock that after several FTC investigations into just one of Dr. Oz’s now 1,600+ episodes, Congress would want to talk to the man himself. Here’s how that went.
Claire McCaskill is no longer in the Senate but I’m sure her colleagues from the Consumer Protection Panel would be thrilled to welcome Dr. Oz back to their hallowed halls.
And by the way, I don’t want you to think that Oz’s problems began and ended with a coffee bean weight loss scam. He has platformed so many quacks that he’s giving Oprah a run for her money, and by “run for her money” I mean he’s actually literally giving Oprah loads of money – she platformed him on her show, then gave him his show, and honestly the whole thing is like a pyramid scheme for quacks.
For instance, many years ago Oprah had the incredible quack Dr. Christiane Northrup on her show. I remember it distinctly because Dr. Northrup had the entire audience stand up and direct their psychic energy to their “vajayjays.” Northrup went on to appear on Dr. Oz’s show discussing “the wisdom of menopause,” and in 2020 she became better known for spreading COVID conspiracy theories as one of the 12 most prolific peddlers of misinformation on Facebook according to a report from The Center for Countering Digital Hate.
Also on that list? Joseph Mercola, himself a past guest on the Dr. Oz show. Mercola sells supplements, so he’s a natural fit to be an expert on the show to drive naive viewers to his website. Mercola is virulently anti-vaccine, not necessarily because he doesn’t understand the science but more likely because he can’t sell vaccines. Mercola also can’t sell actual cancer treatments so instead he tried to sell a tanning bed that he claimed could cure cancer. Yes, really.
Speaking of Facebook misinformation, remember a few weeks back when I talked about “Hacker X,” who admitted to helping build up a misinformation empire that directly led to the spread of anti-vaccine nonsense as well as violent far right facist rhetoric? And remember how that empire turned out to have been run by Mike Adams, creator of Natural News? Well, guess who else has received a glowing platform from Dr. Oz? That’s right, Mike Adams, who Dr. Oz called a “whistleblower who found POISON in America’s food”!
All of this would be bad enough, but it turns out that Dr. Oz has, in the past two years, completely dropped his phony “I’m just presenting both sides” narrative of alt medicine and anti-vaxxers, as he’s done the rounds on Fox News to promote whatever unproven COVID treatment was currently favored by Trump Republicans. And much like he switched from New Jersey to Pennsylvania to have a shot at the GOP nomination for a Senate seat, he also switched from being openly supportive of abortion rights as a fundamental human right to being in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade. Curious.
Now he’s almost completely in line with all the batshit views of Trump Republicans, save for one: he’s a Muslim. At least, he used to be…I guess let’s wait and see what religion he believes in by the time the primaries roll around. It doesn’t sound like he has too much of a problem evolving to survive.