With just over two months to go until Pennsylvania’s US Senate election, polls show Mehmet Oz trailing Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman by anywhere from a few to double-digit points, a situation that appears to be of grave concern to Republicans, including Donald Trump, who has reportedly told confidants that Oz will “fucking lose” unless he can pull off a Hail Mary. How to account for the doctor’s poor showing? Perhaps it’s his position that abortion is “murder” at any stage of pregnancy. Or maybe it’s his claim that carbon dioxide is not a big deal re: climate change. Possibly still, it could be his cynical about-face on everything from transgender issues to gun control, or the fact that his opponent has run an extremely online campaign, and has trolled him at every turn. It could be any or all of these things, but it’s also just as likely that voters’ aversion to the TV doctor turned Senate candidate is simply based on the fact that he can’t stop doing things that send shivers of secondhand embarrassment down their spines on a near-daily basis.
Missed the cringiest of the cringe? Here’s a quick guide.
In October, Jezebel reported that a review of 75 studies published by Oz between 1989 and 2010 showed that his research experiments killed at least—at least!—329 dogs and an “entire litter of puppies,” inflicting “significant suffering on them and the other animals used in experiments.” (Pigs, rabbits, and rodents were also reportedly harmed.) According to whistleblower and veterinarian Catherine Dell’Orto, one dog that experienced kidney failure, lethargy, vomiting, and paralysis wasn’t euthanized for two days, while at least one other “was kept alive for a month for continued experimentation despite her unstable, painful condition.” Oh, and the litter of puppies? They were reportedly “killed by intracardiac injection with syringes of expired drugs inserted in their hearts without any sedation,” and once dead, they “were allegedly left in a garbage bag with living puppies who were their littermates.” In May 2004, Columbia University, Oz’s employer at the time, was forced to pay a fine for violating the Animal Welfare Act.
In a statement to The Patriot-News, Oz campaign spokesperson Brittany Yanick claimed the Jezebel story was “totally false and preposterous” and insisted that “Doctor Oz never abused any animals, and suggesting otherwise is ridiculous.” During the fact-checking process for an article about the US Senate race in Pennsylvania, Oz’s extremely classy campaign said, “Suppose you were the dumbest person in the world. Now suppose you were a reporter for New York magazine. But I repeat myself.” As New York pointed out, the spokesperson nevertheless “did not deny the allegations about the puppies.”
The “Wegners” Crudités Video
Last April, Oz shot a video at a grocery store. Initially, it didn‘t attract much attention, which, for the doctor, was a good thing. When it resurfaced in August, it went viral and in a distinctly not good way. In the clip, Oz tells viewers he’s at “Wegners,” an establishment that does not actually exist. That was unfortunate given the fact that (1) Redner’s, where he actually was, is a well-known chain of stores in Pennsylvania, where he claims to live, and (2) he seemingly combined the name “Redner’s” with “Wegmans,” a chain of grocery stores found throughout the Northeast, including in New Jersey, where his opponent says he actually lives. Naturally, things only got worse from there.
Telling viewers he stopped by to pick up some vegetables for his wife, who was in the mood for “crudités,” Oz proceeds to randomly grab broccoli, carrots, asparagus, guacamole, and salsa, expressing shock at how expensive they are, for which he blames President Joe Biden. “Here’s a broccoli,” Oz says, betraying no sign that he’s done any grocery shopping in the last 20 years. “Two bucks…here’s some asparagus, that’s $4. Carrots, thats four more dollars…that’s $10 of vegetables there. We need some guacamole, that’s $4 more, and she loves salsa, salsa there—$6?! There must be a shortage of of salsa…guys, that’s $20 for crudités. And this doesn’t include the tequila. That’s outrageous—and we got Joe Biden to thank for this.”
As so many people remarked last month, it’s not clear who, exactly, this video was trying to appeal to. Did the Oz team think voters were going to repost and sincerely tweet, “Finally, a politician who gets it! Nobody f–ks with my crudités!”? Did they think it was going to connect with the Everyman, who works a hard day and just wants to kick back with an artfully arranged tray of veggies? Do a lot of people like to munch on raw asparagus?
Then there was the minor matter of the fact that Oz seemingly got most of the prices wrong. Broccoli, as people who have gone shopping before know, is typically not priced per head but per pound. The salsa wasn’t $5.99, that was the price of the bruschetta next to it. The salsa was actually $4.99, and Oz could have saved all of those dollars and all of those cents if he or anyone on his staff had realized before filming that no one dips their carrots, asparagus, or broccoli in salsa.