Dr. Oz Denies Endorsing 'Miracle' Drugs at Combative Senate Hearing
The TV star says companies take his words without his permission: "I recognize that my enthusiastic language has made the problem worse at times."
Dr. Mehmet Oz was put on the defensive Tuesday after appearing before a U.S. Senate subcommittee where he was taken to task for calling a weight-loss product of questionable value "a miracle in a bottle." He was also admonished for "melding medical advice, news and entertainment in a way that harms consumers."
"I recognize that my enthusiastic language has made the problem worse at times," Oz said in a statement after the hearing made headlines.
At the session in Washington, D.C., Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance, told the daily TV talk show star, "The scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products you called 'miracles.' " She said his endorsements gave viewers "false hope," whether intentional or not.
"I don't get why you need to say this stuff when you know it's not true," said McCaskill, "when you have this amazing megaphone, why would you cheapen your show?"
One of the products he was grilled about is Pure Green Coffee, which has been promoted online using clips from the Dr. Oz syndicated TV show. Oz has said he has asked them not to use his name and/or make it appear he had endorsed their product, even if he did say favorable things about it on his show.
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In the hot seat before the committee, Oz responded that he saw himself as a "cheerleader" for the audience and said repeatedly that he does not ever actually endorse the products he discusses on his show, so he should not be held responsible for what is said online when his name is used without permission.
Oz declined a request for an interview from The Hollywood Reporter about his testimony. In his statement afterward he said he was "pleased" that the hearing dealt with some complicated issues, and that all the "players" were present to "move forward in protecting the consumer."
"For years I felt that because I did not sell any products that I could be enthusiastic in my coverage," Oz said in his post-hearing statement, "and I believe the research surrounding the products I cover has value. I took part in today's hearing because I am accountable for my role in the proliferation of these scams and I recognize that my enthusiastic language has made the problem worse at times."
Before the hearing, Oz had said he wanted to testify because he felt he was a "victim" of promoters who used his name, clips from his show and his reputation to act as if he had endorsed their products when he had not.
"I know you feel that you're a victim," McCaskill said during the hearing, "but sometimes conduct invites being a victim. I think that if you would be more careful, maybe you wouldn't be victimized quite as frequently."
Oz said he has now toned down his language.
"To not have the conversation about supplements at all however would be a disservice to the viewer," Oz said in his post-hearing statement. "In addition to exercising an abundance of caution in discussing promising research and products in the future, I look forward to working with all those present today in finding a way to deal with the problems of weight-loss scams."
Oz said he really does believe what he says about products that he talks about on his show. He said one thing he has endorsed is the power of prayer, even if it is not scientifically proven.
"It's hard to buy prayer," McCaskill said. "Prayer's free."
"Yes, that's a very good point," Oz agreed. "Prayer's free."
Even before the hearing, Oz has received plenty of criticism from those who question the value of highlighting weight-loss treatments and other cures for illnesses that are not supported by scientific research.
"As a physician," said an article published by the Daily Beast on June 14, "Dr. Oz's credentials are truly impressive. He is the vice-chairman of surgery at one of the nation's top medical schools, after all. But somewhere along the way he decided that his fame was more important than his credibility."
McCaskill and other Senators said it is up to Oz to use the power he has on TV in a responsible manner.
"You can use your knowledge and celebrity status to do good things, and right now it seems we're going the opposite way here," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota).
"We didn't call this hearing to beat up on you," said McCaskill, "but we did call this hearing to talk about a real crisis in consumer protection, and you can be part of the problem or you can be part of the police."
Oz said he did want to be "part of the solution."
He told the senators he is now exercising more restraint: "I am in the situation where I'm second-guessing every word I say on the show now."