Former President Donald Trump cited Mehmet Oz’s “very successful television show” and purported popularity among women in endorsing the celebrity doctor for U.S. Senate in the Republican primary race in Pennsylvania. Trump, perhaps seeing himself, expressed confidence in the electability of a fellow media-personality-turned-politician. “He has lived with us through the screen and has always been popular, respected, and smart,” Trump said in a written statement on Saturday, recalling how, when he went on The Dr. Oz Show during the 2016 campaign, Oz “even said that I was in extraordinary health, which made me like him even more (although he also said I should lose a couple of pounds!).”
Oz, a celebrity doctor with a long-running daytime TV show, has over the years come under fire for espousing bogus on-air medical advice. (The show ended in January, as he intensified his bid for Pennsylvania’s Senate seat.) Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticized him for his health tips about weight-loss pills as he appeared before a Senate committee in 2014. The science community, too, has taken issue with Oz: In 2015, 10 physicians argued that he should be fired from Columbia University’s medical faculty for, among other things, “an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.” (Oz contended he brings “the public information that will help them on their path to be their best selves.”)
For months, Oz and opponent David McCormick, a hedge fund manager who is also seen as a leading candidate in Pennsylvania’s Senate GOP primary, have been competing for Trump’s endorsement—something that only became available once Sean Parnell, Trump’s initial pick, dropped out of the race amid allegations of domestic abuse. (Parnell has denied the allegations.) Trump throwing his weight behind Oz is particularly notable given McCormick is married to Dina Powell, who served as Trump’s deputy national security adviser, and has several Trump alums, including Hope Hicks, working on his campaign. Further emphasizing the intraparty divide, Parnell, who endorsed McCormick, tweeted that he was “disappointed” by Trump’s pick.
“This is all about winning elections in order to stop the Radical Left maniacs from destroying our Country,” Trump said in the statement announcing his endorsement, the release of which coincided with a rally in North Carolina on Saturday evening, where Trump elaborated on his decision. “That’s like a poll,” Trump told the crowd of Oz’s long television run, per the Washington Post. “That means people like you.” Including, apparently, former first lady Melania Trump, who made it clear to her husband that she preferred Oz, NBC News reported. The Trumps dined with Oz and his wife last month at Mar-a-Lago, according to Politico.
McCormick, too, made the pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to try to win Trump’s support—he was spotted there just last week, by which point Trump had seemingly not yet made up his mind. (The former president asked a reporter which candidate he should endorse, pointing out that “they all come here.”) “Oz’s celebrity appears to have been a deciding factor for the former president,” The New York Times noted Saturday. Oz’s embrace of alternative medicine and unproven treatments may have helped him become a Fox News favorite since the start of the pandemic, but before his Senate bid, he regularly supported health insurance mandates and promoted Obamacare. He nonetheless celebrated the news in a statement. “Trump wisely endorsed me because I’m a conservative who will stand up to Joe Biden and the woke left,” he said.
The U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania, whose winner will replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, is considered one of the most important elections in the fight for the Senate majority this fall. CNN last month ranked it at the top of the list of seats most likely to flip, and both Democrats and Republicans have crowded primaries. While Oz had a strong lead at the start of the primary, his support has apparently slipped, with a recent poll finding Oz and McCormick virtually tied and a majority of voters undecided. “Oz’s success or failure at the polls will also be closely watched as a test of Trump’s own hold on the party ahead of the 2024 presidential election,” Politico reported.
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