Republican US Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz speaks on October 13, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Mark Makela / Getty Images)
After Dr. Mehmet Oz’s Senate campaign came under fire over the summer for seemingly blaming opponent John Fetterman’s diet for his stroke in May, Oz distanced himself from those comments and said earlier this month that he wouldn’t talk to his patients the same way.
But Oz has a well-documented history of blaming people—specifically fat people and smokers—for their own illnesses and ailments.
In a 2019 Today show segment, for example, Oz said: “Everyone in America, please, just look down and see your belly… If you can see your belly, I can tell you your brain is shrinking. Big belly means small brain.”
“Your big belly creates a metabolic disarray that causes inflammation in your brain, which means you can predispose yourself to a condition like Alzheimer’s,” Oz added. “So reduce your waist size.”
During another Today show appearance, in 2017, attached to the holidays and “healthy eating,” Oz measured an audience member’s waist, told her to “suck it in,” and after measuring her told her that she had “a little too much going on in the belly area.”
After Oz riffed on the audience member’s body on national television, then-host Megyn Kelly added, “So she’s gotta go back to the vegetables.”
Oz hawked “magic weight-loss cures” while hosting his own daytime talk show, which ran for 13 seasons until he launched his run for Senate as a Republican in Pennsylvania. Oz did this so frequently and impactfully that it in 2011, Forbes coined the skyrocketing sales of products after they were mentioned on his show as the “Oz effect.”
But in 2014, Oz was grilled by a Senate subcommittee for boosting fraudulent products to promote weight loss, such as raspberry ketone and green coffee extract, the basis for which researchers later retracted. During the hearing, then-Sen. Claire McCaskill accused Oz of “dramatically boosting sales and driving scam artists to pop up overnight using false and deceptive ads to sell questionable products.”
“The scientific community is almost monolithic against you,” McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, said during the hearing.
Oz, a heart surgeon by trade, also told ABC News in 2009 that he refused to operate on smokers unless they quit the habit, even if doing so would help them.
“I don’t operate on smokers,” he said. “I tell cigarette smokers that I can operate on you, I get paid the same, and you might even do well. But it’s the wrong thing to do. operate on you until you stop smoking.”
Oz later added that most patients resumed smoking anyway. “I recognize that the average smoker stops and then starts again six times before they succeed,” he told ABC News at the time. “At least I took care of one of ’em.”
The first-time candidate has gained momentum in the race, which could determine which party controls the Senate next year. While Fetterman led polls by as much as double digits throughout much of the summer, most recent polls now show Oz within the margin of error. The current seatholder is Sen. Pat Toomey, a retiring Republican.
Oz’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.