What’s Left: Dr. Oz May Have “Won” the Debate, But That Doesn’t Make Him the Right Candidate

Josephine DeBono, Contributing Writer

On Tuesday, Oct. 25, John Fetterman (D) and Dr. Mehmet Oz (R) squared off in their first and only debate for a seat as Pennsylvania’s senator. 

John Fetterman, a graduate of the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government, a seasoned member of the Democratic Party, 34th lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and mayor of Braddock county, is running against Dr. Mehmet Oz, a celebrity surgeon famous for his 12-year running television series, “The Oz Show,” which seeks to give everyday Americans health advice through their screen. Upon the airing of their only debate for a U.S. Senate seat, Pennsylvanians were left questioning not only the candidates’ unclear stances on hot-button issues but also Fetterman’s competency to hold public office having just suffered a stroke in May. While Fetterman has released a letter from his physician clearing him for holding public office, he has refused to release any other medical records. His struggles during the debate to answer coherently, timely and with relevant information, despite accessibility accommodations made for his speech, coupled with his hearing difficulties leaves many questioning whether someone the public considers cognitively impaired is equipped for the taxing office of senator. His responses to questions were often awkward, instead resorting to ad hominem personal attacks regarding Dr. Oz’s wealth, lifestyle and weak ties to Pennsylvania. Dr. Oz, on the other hand, was able to articulate his stances and plans should he be elected even if many disagreed with him, ultimately allowing him to supersede Fetterman in the polls for the first time, according to the New York Post. Yet, Dr. Oz’s success doesn’t make him right to serve as Pennsylvania’s senator.

To truly evaluate the fitness of Dr. Oz as a holder of public office we should start by looking at his history of putting profit before public health during his tenure as ‘America’s favorite doctor.’ On his famous show, Dr. Oz often gave medical advice that wasn’t based on evidence or the caliber of scientific study that his degree would warrant, in order to maintain lucrative sponsorships. For example, Dr. Oz supported the use of Hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19 on Fox & Friends, even though only anecdotal non-peer-reviewed evidence existed to support its efficacy, most probably because he held stocks in companies that manufacture and distribute the drug, as CNBC reports.  A Business Insider Article reveals he also promoted the benefits of astrology (a pseudoscience) in understanding our health in a since-deleted tweet. Most famously as also detailed in Business Insider , he has touted the miraculous benefits of green coffee bean extract for weight loss, the extract produced by a company in Texas that then faced a lawsuit by the FTC. There were no proper studies accounting for the benefits of the extract and thus Dr. Oz was called to testify in front of the Congressional Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and insurance in 2014. So egregious have been his violations of the Hippocratic oath that Columbia University, where he completed his residency in Cardiothoracic surgery, has publicly cut ties with him, according to WebMD. It’s extremely unsettling that a man who has used his power and the public’s trust in his credentials to further his own interests at any expense will be shaping public policy and law.

Dr. Oz’s candidacy for Senate is also increasingly dangerous when we consider that he has committed himself to fight for a Republican’s vision for a utopian America when so many issues will be up for discussion in Congress. Dr. Oz is against abortion access, claiming the federal government has no right to intervene in a state’s decision regarding abortion law and is thus supporting the overturning of Roe V. Wade except in cases of rape, incest, and the danger posed to the mother’s life, according to CNN. Furthermore, as the effects of police violence are felt throughout the nation, Dr. Oz has pledged to fund the police and is endorsed by the Philadelphia Police Union, according to NBC Philadelphia. His problematic approaches to high-stakes issues can be perfectly summed up in the fact that he is endorsed by disgraced former president Donald J. Trump.

Is John Fetterman the first choice for Pennsylvanians, as a man who failed to prove his competency after a life-threatening stroke? No, but is Dr. Mehmet Oz, a man with a history of corruption and a pledge to further authoritarianism, a better alternative? Certainly not.