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Just What the Quack Ordered: Dr. Oz Expected to Announce Pennsylvania Senate Run

After Republicans’ choice candidate, Sean Parnell, ended his Senate bid in scandal, Dr. Oz is expected to make his move in the crucial state of Pennsylvania. 

For Republicans hoping to take the Senate from the Democrats next year, Pennsylvania is crucial. Flipping another state won’t help them if they can’t hang on to the seat being vacated by the retiring Pat Toomey, and the guy they hoped could secure it—Sean Parnell—has just completed his political downfall after losing a custody battle amid accusations of domestic abuse. (Parnell has denied any wrongdoing.) That leaves Republicans looking for someone new to rally behind in the swing state. 

Into that open field comes…Dr. Oz. Yes, Mehmet Oz, the noted television doctor, professor, and promoter of quack science, is expected to launch a bid for Toomey’s seat, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, with an announcement of his candidacy coming as early as this week. There’s been some chatter around his political ambitions for a while now, though it isn’t quite clear what his politics are. So far, he’s reportedly been staffing up his nascent campaign and connecting with state Republican leaders. According to TMZ, which cited “sources with direct knowledge” of the matter, Oz may make his candidacy official during an appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program, where he has given commentary on the coronavirus pandemic.

That commentary has drawn blowback. During a Hannity appearance in the early days of the pandemic, Oz was oddly cavalier about the prospect of increased COVID deaths that some feared at the time would result from reopening schools; a two-to-three percent increase in total deaths, he told Hannity, might be an “appetizing opportunity” to “get our mojo back” as a society. He apologized for the dismissive remarks, but it was only the latest controversy he’s stumbled into since ascending to fame as a frequent guest on Oprah Winfrey’s program. He has promoted a long line of dubious cures, including hydroxychloroquine as a COVID treatment. (He backtracked somewhat on his advocacy for the drug, saying in a Fox & Friends interview last year that “we are better off waiting” to see how it performed in clinical trials; studies have shown the antimalarial to be ineffective against COVID-19.) 

Oz also infamously conducted a televised “physical” of then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016, in which he read over two pages the future president pulled out of his pocket and claimed were his medical records. Oz called these records “comprehensive” and deemed him healthy. “If a patient of mine had these records, I’d be very happy and I’d send them on their way,” Oz said.

That didn’t exactly end criticisms about Trump’s lack of transparency, but it did endear Oz to him: Two years later, Trump put the celebrity doctor on his Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition, and in 2020, he began soliciting COVID advice from Oz. It’s not clear if Trump, who had previously endorsed Parnell, will support Oz’s expected Senate run. But he’d enter the Republican primary field with two apparent advantages over his competitors—name recognition and deep pockets—even though he has only recently changed his voting address to Pennsylvania from New Jersey. 

Still, it’s not clear how seriously Pennsylvania Republicans will view his candidacy: “I don’t know a single politically-involved person in Pennsylvania who’s not being paid who wants to be involved in this effort,” one strategist in the state told Politico earlier this month, when the Oz rumor mill started churning. “There’s no one who thinks the solution to the Sean Parnell issue is Dr. Oz,” the strategist added, saying the “universal response” to his prospective candidacy has been “LOL.”

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