The famous TV icon, former and highly controversial surgeon Dr. Oz, has been active in the Republican Party in the last decade. In November, he announced his candidacy for a seat in the US Senate, raising eyebrows. As a doctor with deep pockets and connections, his race will undoubtedly be interesting to watch. What makes it even more attention-grabbing is that he might become the wealthiest member of Congress!
Who is Dr. Oz?
Mehmet Cengiz Oz, known professionally as Dr. Oz, is a TV personality, author, and retired surgeon, who gained popularity for his “Dr. Oz Show”, but which he ended after he ran for the Senate. He was born in 1960 in Cleveland, Ohio, to parents Suna and Mustafa Oz, who emigrated from Konya Province, Turkey. His father, Mustafa was one of the best students at Cerrahpasa Medical School, and after graduation, he relocated to the US to work at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Eventually, he trained to become a surgeon, and worked as the chief of thoracic surgery at the Medical Center of Delaware for a few years. Oz’s mother was born into a well-to-do family – her father was a pharmacist. Oz has two siblings, Several and Nazlim Oz, raised in a mixed Muslim environment as his father practiced traditional Islam, while his mother was a secular Muslim.
Having been inspired by his father’s career and success, Oz wanted to become a doctor from a young age. In an interview, he said: ‘I thought it would feel so good if I could do that, too.’
Oz attended the private Tower Hill School in Wilmington, Delaware, and then in 1982 enrolled at Harvard University, graduating with an undergraduate degree in biology. During his days at the university, he joined the football team, and was the goalie of the men’s varsity water polo team. In 1986 he received Doctor of Medicine and MBA degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine, and Penn’s Wharton School. He then spent two years in the Turkish army, to keep his dual citizenship.
He started his medical career in 1988, working at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City after Eric Rose offered him the job, where he worked diligently for years, becoming a specialist in heart transplant. In the early stages of his career, he worked with a patient whose family didn’t allow blood transfusion as their religion opposed it. Even though he was distraught to learn this, it opened his eyes, and made him think about other approaches to healing, saying: ‘I began to recognize that as dogmatic as I thought I could be with my knowledge base, there were certain elements of the healing process I could not capture,.’
This experience prompted him to research alternative treatments that could be combined with modern medical practices.
In 1994, Oz co-founded the Cardiovascular Institute and Integrative Medicine Program at Presbyterian Hospital, New York City, with his colleague Jerry Whitworth. The idea behind the institute was to provide various types of alternative medicine and treatments to patients with heart diseases. After establishing the institute, Dr. Oz received significant media exposure, which created tension with the hospital administration, who expressed concern and disapproval at his use of therapeutic touch. In 1996, he performed a successful heart transplant on Frank Tore, a professional baseball player, subsequently rising in popularity and receiving media publicity. Like Oz’s partner Jerry, Eric Rose did not enjoy the media attention as she thought it was distracting, while Jerry even begged Dr. Oz to ‘stop the media circus’.
In 1998 Rose and Dr. Oz, who was thrilled with media attention, authored the book “Healing from the Heart: A Leading Surgeon Combines Eastern and Western Traditions to Create the Medicine of the Future.’
From 2001 to 2022, Oz worked as a professor at the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. During his medical career, he contributed to the field by developing numerous devices and procedures pertaining to heart surgery; one of which is MitraClip and ventricular assist device. In addition, in 2010, he and Jeff Arnold co-founded “Sharecare, Inc,” a health and wellness company. Currently, the 62-year-old Dr. Oz holds the title of professor emeritus, and has stopped seeing patients.
Dr. Oz began his career on TV appearing in “The Oprah Show,” providing information, tips and knowledge on an array of subjects, such as weight loss, healthy lifestyle, and aging. In 2003 he launched the show entitled “Second Opinions with Dr. Oz” in collaboration with Discovery Channel, which ran for a season. Over time, he became a recurring health expert on “The Oprah Show,” achieving popularity and fame, which prompted Oprah to offer him his own show, produced by her company Harpo Productions. The “Dr. Oz Show” premiered in 2009, and ran until 2022, when he chose to run for the Senate. On his show, Dr. Oz discussed various subjects such as diabetes, and promoted resveratrol supplements, claiming that they had anti-aging properties. In January 2011, Dr. Oz began appearing on “Oprah Allstars”, alongside Dr. Phil and Suze Orman, answering various questions regarding life, health, and finance. In 2014, he launched another show, “Surgeon Oz,” which detailed his career and experience working as a surgeon. In March 2021, he guest-hosted the popular TV game show “Jeopardy,” but his presence received a severe backlash from the show’s fans, who wanted to remove him.
US Senate Campaign
Since 2007 Dr. Oz has been showing an interest in politics, namely the Republican Party of New Jersey, and had even donated to John McCain and Bill First. He supported the campaign of President George W. Bush and the candidacy of the Republican Shmuley Boteach.
After the Republican US senator announced his retirement in November 2021, Dr. Oz announced that he would be running for the US Senate seat in Pennsylvania as a Republican. In an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, Dr. Oz wrote: ‘During the pandemic, I learned that when you mix politics and medicine, you get politics instead of solutions. That’s why I’m running for the US Senate: to help fix the problems and to help heal.’
Following his announcement, several TV stations that aired his show removed it due to the Federal Communications Commission’s equal-time rule, providing equivalent air time to opposing political candidates. Describing himself as a ‘moderate Republican’, in a 2007 interview, Oz explained his political views: ‘I’m not socially conservative. I don’t believe that we should be intruding into the private lives of homosexuals. We should not be creating obstacles during the difficult time women have when trying to terminate a pregnancy.’ However, since he announced his candidacy for the seat in late 2021, he identified himself as a ‘conservative Republican’, and has recently supported the Supreme Court’s ruling, which ended 50 years of federal abortion rights.
Interestingly, if he were to be elected, he would be the first Muslim to serve in the US Senate. In his campaign, he is adamantly against vaccine requirements, and even ‘fired shots’ at the immunologist Anthony Fauci, the Chief Medical Advisor to the President, saying that he should be fired.
I’m running for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania because America needs a Conservative Republican to cure what’s wrong with Washington. I’m a world-class surgeon, fighter, and health care advocate stepping forward to cure our country’s ills. Watch my announcement video now! pic.twitter.com/yLhKsZm9sl
— Dr. Mehmet Oz (@DrOz) November 30, 2021
Dr. Oz, whose campaign is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, entered the Republican primary held on May 17. Following the election, the votes showed that Oz led his opponent David McCormick by a slight difference of 0.1%, which triggered a mandatory statewide recount. Pressured by Trump, Dr. Oz prematurely declared victory, calling himself the presumptive nominee. However, Oz did become the Republican nominee after McCormick conceded, believing that the recount could not make up the deficit in votes; he said: ‘Now it’s clear to me with the recount now largely complete that we have a nominee.” Dr. Oz is set to face the Democratic nominee John Fetterman in November 2022.
What is Dr. Oz’s net worth?
As he disclosed in a government filing, Dr. Oz has a personal fortune estimated at $100 million. Talking of his assets, he owns shares in the gas and convenience chain Wawa, and has a series of luxury properties in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Florida, and Turkey. In addition, in 2021 he purchased a cattle farm in Okeechobee, Florida, allegedly worth $500,000.
His house in Palm Beach, Florida, is believed to be valued at more than $5 million. Even though the precise value cannot be determined due to financial disclosure, required under the law, which asks for the value of assets in a broad range, one thing is sure – if elected, Dr. Oz would be one of the wealthiest members of the Senate.
Having used his public image and reach, he has successfully utilized his vast fortune to propel himself toward the top of the Republican field. Furthermore, primary races in Pennsylvania are one of the most expensive in the US, and launching a campaign calls for substantial financial support. According to reports, since last year, he’s invested $5.3 million in his campaign, and the amount is expected to grow.
Scandals and Controversy
Dr. Oz has had his share of scandals and controversy, ranging from inappropriate statements that caused immense backlash, to promoting ‘magical’ products for various health issues. In one of his show’s episodes, he presented the green coffee beans to the public, claiming that they were a magical weight-loss cure for every body type. Besides the Green Coffee Extract, he endorsed and promoted other miracle drugs for weight loss, such as Raspberry Ketone and Garcinia Cambogia. However, his promotion of these quick solutions was met with criticism from many other physicians, given that none of his claims had any scientific basis; on the contrary, some studies have even indicated otherwise. This whole ordeal culminated in 2014, when he was summoned to face a Senate Subcommittee for misleading the public by airing segments on weight loss products that were later used for advertisements.
Dr. Oz backtracked on his previous statements regarding these products, saying that he might have used strong language such as “miracle” and “magic” to describe products without proven effects. Dr. Oz told the Senate: ‘I’m in a position where I’m second-guessing every word I use on the show right now. I’m very respectful, I’ve heard the message, I’ve told my colleagues at the FTC, I get it.’ Although it seemed that Senate was somewhat dissatisfied with Dr. Oz’s behavior, media outlets reported that there was no concrete conclusion to the hearing.
Following his Senate appearance, Dr. Oz promoted a healthy lifestyle and regular exercise as the best way to lose weight, claiming that he had always recommended it. Furthermore, he began arguing that his show was not a medical show, and explained the logo: ‘It’s called The Dr. Oz Show. We very purposely, on the logo, have ‘Oz’ as the middle, and the ‘Doctor’ is actually up in the little bar for a reason. I want folks to realize that I’m a doctor, and I’m coming into their lives to be supportive of them.’
Our golden season starts tomorrow! Here's how you can watch #TheDrOzShow: https://bit.ly/3AYArFCWe'll catch you up on the latest breaking news; plus, Howie Mandel will be joining me; and like many of us, he'll talk about his struggles with anxiety and how he's learning to cope.
Posted by Dr. Mehmet Oz on Sunday, September 12, 2021
According to reports, the real magicians are his lawyers – the award-winning host has been sued multiple times by consumers who were dissatisfied with the weight-loss products. Besides these claims, he’s been criticized for promoting pseudoscience, alternative medicine, and faith healing.
His controversial friendship with Donald Trump
Trump’s endorsement of Oz’s candidacy for the US Senate might seem unusual for those who are not fans of “Dr. Oz Show” or Dr. Oz himself. However, if you watched his show, you might remember that during Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016, he guest-appeared on Dr. Oz’s show. Many concluded that his appearance aimed to appeal to the numerous female audience who admired Dr. Oz and his profession. However, Dr. Oz was again heavily criticized for his softball approach while interviewing Trump.
A media outlet was particularly displeased with Dr. Oz’s questioning, and wrote: ‘For Donald Trump, Oz’s show proved to be a safe space, a haven shielded from any tough questions or follow-ups, and offered Trump a platform to offer up whatever he wanted, from saying that he feels as good as a 30-year-old to playing up his stamina and his [testosterone] level.’ He was also criticized for the on-air physical that he conducted on Trump, and for revealing his medical reports. Dr. Oz later defended himself, saying: ‘Why not release [Trump’s medical records] on a show that talks to people every day about health and have some context put on the results?’
Two years later, Donald, seemingly becoming friends with Dr. Oz, appointed him and several others such as Lou Ferrigno to his Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition. In December 2020, Trump nominated him for a second council term, however, he was fired from the position by the Biden administration in 2022. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump was heavily influenced by Dr. Oz’s opinion, which downplayed the virus, and he subsequently became an informal advisor to Donald’s administration.
Whether you support Dr. Oz or not, his effect and reach are undeniable. Although several controversies and ill-timed statements have marked his career, Dr. Oz is an embodiment of the American Dream, and the numerous riches and opportunities that the US has to offer, which just might play a vital role in the Senate Elections of 2022.