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Dr. Mehmet Oz is leaving television to join the world of politics.
The cardiothoracic surgeon and longtime TV personality will run for the open U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania, which will be up for grabs in 2022 when Republican Sen. Pat Toomey retires. Oz will run as a Republican candidate, joining a crowded field in the primary.
Oz announced his candidacy on his website Tuesday afternoon, writing, “Today, America’s heartbeat is in a code red in need of a defibrillator to shock it back to life. … I’m running for U.S. Senate to reignite our divine spark, bravely fight for freedom, and will tell it like it is.”
The TV host is likely betting that his established name recognition and media experience will benefit him in the primary.
While his background is in heart surgery, Oz. became a household name thanks to Oprah Winfrey, appearing regularly on her syndicated daytime talk show as a medical expert. Winfrey would go on to help him launch his own syndicated talk show, The Dr. Oz Show, which is produced by her Harpo Productions and is distributed by Sony Pictures Television.
It is unclear what will happen to the show, which has been renewed through the 2022-23 season, but the website that had been home to the TV program is now his official campaign site.
A source familiar with the discussions says that Sony is evaluating its options and discussing plans with its broadcast partners on how to move forward, given Oz’s candidacy.
On Wednesday, Fox TV stations pulled Oz’s show in its Philadelphia and New York markets, with other local stations following suit, in order to comply with equal time rules.
Oz has been a regular figure on TV news programs over the past two years, often discussing the novel coronavirus pandemic and the government’s response to it. He was also a guest-host on Jeopardy! (which Sony also produces) earlier this year, as the show searched for a successor to Alex Trebek.
That appearance resurfaced long-simmering controversies around Dr. Oz, particularly around some of his medical claims, such as that green coffee beans could work as a weight-loss option, or early in the pandemic that hydroxychloroquine could be useful as a treatment for COVID-19.
And in fact, his Senate run is not without controversy. While Oz is running for Senate in Pennsylvania, he has long lived in New Jersey, and only registered to vote in the Keystone State last year, using his in-laws’ house in Montgomery County as his voting address, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Oz joins a growing list of celebrities exploring the world of politics. Earlier this year, Caitlin Jenner unsuccessfully mounted a bid in California’s gubernatorial recall election, while more successful campaigns included Arnold Schwarzenegger’s term as governor of California, and of course Donald Trump’s time as president.
Dec. 1, 10:30 a.m. Updated with news that Oz’s show was pulled in Pennsylvania markets.
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