Dr. Oz made an appearance on Capitol Hill yesterday, appearing before the Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance Senate subcommittee and it didn’t go well.
The hearing was focused on the promotion and false advertising of weight loss products on Dr. Oz’s show. The chairwoman of the committee, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, had a serious issue with the products that Dr. Oz has recommended because of the lack of strong science behind them.
“Your credibility is being maligned by fraudsters and frankly being threatened by the notion that anybody can take an itty-bitty pill to push fat out of their system,” said Sen. McCaskill. She also reminded him that he’s a doctor in addition to a celebrity personality, so he has a responsibility to the public.
One of the products that came up is FBCx, a diet pill, that Dr. Oz maintains is “essentially fiber,” according to Time. He said his family takes the pill.
The other is Green Coffee Beans, which was sued by the Federal Trade Commission in May “for deceiving consumers through fake news sites and invented health claims.”
“The FTC said that weeks after ‘The Dr. Oz Show’ promoted the benefits of Pure Green Coffee, some companies that marketed the product used video from his show to increase sales,” says CNN.
From Sen. McCaskill’s point of view, these products are “scams” and Dr. Oz has been using his platform and the trust that he’s built with his fans to push these products that, evidence shows, really don’t work.
“The scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products you called ‘miracles,'” Sen. McCaskill added. “I don’t get why you need to say this stuff when you know it’s not true.”
In his response, Dr. Oz took a free speech approach, saying that curbing his use of “flowery” language is disenfranchising.
“My job, I feel, on the show is to be a cheerleader for the audience, and when they don’t think they have hope, when they don’t think they can make it happen, I want to look, and I do look everywhere, including in alternative healing traditions, for any evidence that might be supportive to them,” he said.
This is not a good look for the good doctor, and seems like a damaging and somewhat confusing way for him to describe his role. His viewers are coming to him for solid but easy-to-understand information about medical issues. In this post on his Facebook page, a reader says she gets a “wealth of information” from his magazine. If he’s a “cheerleader,” should we discount his recommendations and advice? Is he a doctor in the same way Dr. Dre is? Sen. McCaskill hit the nail on the head about the damage to his credibility that this is doing. His statements before Congress only further damage it.
Separately but related, a number of stories say that Sen. McCaskill “scolded” Dr. Oz. She’s not a mother talking to a child. She’s a Senator talking to a celebrity medical professional discussing an important consumer matter as part of her job in politics. The word is diminutive in a way that takes away from the importance of what she said and what the hearing was about.