Sen. Claire McCaskill Brings Down the Hammer on Pseudoscience-Purveyor Dr. Oz

We know Dr. Mehmet Oz pushes a lot of pseudoscience on his syndicated talk show. He went from being known as America’s most trusted doctor when he appeared on Oprah (and a very talented surgeon) to being known as a purveyor of quack medicine that has no basis in science.

Earlier today, he was called to testify before Congress at the request of Senator Claire McCaskill for one particularly egregious scam promoted, in part, by Oz:

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McCaskill’s hearing follows recent enforcement actions against companies engaged in deceptive advertising of weight-loss products. Last month the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it is suing the Florida-based company, Pure Green Coffee, alleging that it capitalized on the green coffee bean diet fad by using bogus weight-loss claims and fake news websites to market its dietary supplement. The FTC claimed that weeks after green coffee was promoted on the Dr. Oz Show, Pure Green Coffee began selling their Pure Green Coffee extract, charging $50 for a one-month supply.

Watch the video of the exchange at Buzzfeed. McCaskill’s questioning makes you wonder who’s the trained scientist and who’s spouting drivel.

The senator made it clear to Oz that:

the scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products that you called miracles. And when you call a product a miracle, and it’s something you can buy, and it’s something that gives people false hope, I just don’t understand why you needed to go there.

(She added that she understands he’s in a business that’s all about getting viewers to tune in, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for a skilled doctor to advance nonsense.)

Oz’s response was stunning:

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… everywhere, including alternative healing traditions, for any evidence that might be supportive to them.

That’s what bullshit artists do. They look for anything that might support what the audience wants to hear. John Edward and James Van Praagh and all those other scammers who claim to speak with the dead could have said the exact same things.

Dr. Oz was supposed to be different. He has legit credentials. But instead of being an authoritative coach, telling the team what works and what doesn’t — even if they don’t want to hear it — he has become a wishful cheerleader on the sidelines, mindlessly supporting the team regardless of the reality of the situation.

McCaskill closed that segment of the hearing with a biting criticism of Oz:

… I know you feel that you’re a victim. But sometimes conduct invites being a victim, and I think if you would be more careful, maybe you wouldn’t be victimized quite as frequently.

McCaskill, by the way, is a member of the U.S Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. As she clearly should be. Unlike the corresponding House committee, led by Republicans, where members deny climate change and evolution, the Senate seems much more equipped to handle discussions about, you know, science.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.