It seems he really hasn't been faking it for a paycheck, because he is not that good an actor. He believes what he says, even if it is wrong. And some of it is definitely in defiance of well-established science, but the fact that he is now defending himself at all shows he has either grown, or he has lost that battle and just does not realize it.
Last week, a letter written by Dr. Henry Miller of the Hoover Institute and spearheaded by he and others with the American Council on Science and Health asked Columbia to remove him and today, Michael Rosenbaum, Joan Bregstein and six other Columbia faculty members wrote an Op-Ed in USA Today criticizing his work. They are certainly not the first. A paper a few months ago found that only a third of his content was believable, much less evidence-based, and last year he was excoriated on the floor of Congress for his miracle cure claims. Does that make him a charlatan? No, I would vehemently disagree with anyone who claimed he is in the same vein as Joe Mercola or that Yogic flying instructor guy. Oz has never been anti-vaccine, the true mark of charlatans, he is just wrong on other things.
His show today was certainly spinning the criticism of him, saying he was 'uncovering the truth' about GMOs and all that jazz. He made it sound like it is some corporate conspiracy but as I have discussed, these corporations he thinks are so clever are legendarily incompetent when it comes to public relations, they are not manipulating anything. Environmental Working Group is getting free publicity on his daytime television show and every other large anti-science group except Union of Concerned Scientists got a shout-out from Oz. That's good P.R., the morons running corporate marketing at pesticide corporations wait until stuff happens and then they hand Ketchum or whoever a million dollars and ask them to email bloggers to get them to defend science. Instead of being some secret nefarious force, it's instead baffling how these companies are even in business, given their legendary lack of a clue - it's only because their products really do work and they are not harmful that they stay solvent.
But he doubled down on the vast right-wing conspiracy stuff. His criticism of Dr. Henry Miller, for example, was that Miller is not against GMOs. Well, no one in science is against GMOs. Dr. Oz may be, and that is his personal opinion, but it is not evidence-based. He went after Dr. Gil Ross of American Council on Science and Health again and his journalist solemnly intoned that Mother Jones says that a former employee who got denied a promotion and was fired said that they are on the take. Like with his knowledge of biology, Oz does not seem to understand that's not actual journalism. Am I now suspect because two of their members are among the 20,000 people who have accounts here? I bet I would be if I were big enough to get a national headline for criticizing him.
Some of his assertions veer into the strange. He said this new attack wa because of his derision of the Arctic Apple - basically, that all of American science mobilized against him years ago knowing he would criticize a small Canadian start-up business in 2014 - but I recognize that it baffles me because I am not the target audience. People who read Consumer Reports or Environmental Working Group for their science are, and Dr. Oz acknowledged that he saw the benefit of the apples.
"I have never judged GMO foods," he said in his defense today, he just wants them labeled. Yet his peers at Columbia want a similar disclaimer to appear before his show. Does he agree that awareness is important when it comes to him, or will he think such a disclaimer is meant to look like a warning label?
We'll have to see.
Ironically, after he bullies and shames his detractors in front of an audience of millions, he says he is the one being bullied and shamed. Orwellian is a cliché but that is classic doublethink.
Yet I have to respect him a little more despite all that. On his show and in an NBC interview, he faces the criticism. Instead of handlers issuing statements that critics support GMOs and therefore are not credible, or getting a friendly producer at Good Morning America to do his fighting for him, he is addressing his audience and all of America. Tomorrow he is going on the "Today" show to talk about it some more.
These are all friendly venues but he is showing up. In the interview with NBC's Stephanie Gosk, he acknowledged where things have gone wrong and the tone is much different than on his show when his "investigative journalist" is digging for dirt on anyone who dares to question him.
"There are segments that I made that I wish I could take back," he told Gosk. And he acknowledged that his program is "not a medical show" even though he wears scrubs and a stethoscope and has "Dr." in the title, and he says he will stop using words like "miracle" after getting blasted on the floor of Congress. He also no longer recommends supplements, something that a number of his critics have failed to note.
That he is finally addressing these issues and making these changes means that science and evidence-based medicine have won. So perhaps it's time to give him a break.
In 1989, professional wrestling had to acknowledge they were not a sport. Gifted athletes, hard-working men and women, fantastic storytellers for sure, but they sell entertainment. And that is how fans of the show should now regard Dr. Oz.
He has told them so.
Image credit: Columbia