Another irony meter blown: Dr. Oz to testify in front of the Senate’s Consumer Protection panel about weight loss scams

I’ve never made it much of a secret that I don’t much like “America’s doctor,” Dr. Mehmet Oz. Just enter his name into the search box of this blog, and you’ll find quite a few posts in which I deconstruct some bit of quackery that Dr. Oz has promoted on his show, be it his promotion of faith healing and even psychic medium quackery from the likes of John Edward and Theresa Caputo (a.k.a. the Long Island Medium, who was—surprise! surprise!—recently reported to be a fraud); his fear mongering over the non-existent link between cell phone radiation and cancer; regular promotional visits by über-quack Joe Mercola; recommending homeopathy as a cure all; and even taking seriously one of the quackiest quacks on the Internet, New World Order conspiracy theorist, former Y2K scammer, and self-styled scientist, the “Health Ranger” Mike Adams, who seems not to understand that things look very different under the microscope. It’s not for nothing that I’ve characterized Dr. Oz not as “America’s doctor,” but rather “America’s quack.” It’s a characterization that he has more than earned, given his utter abdication of professional responsibility.

Heck, he’s even piled onto the dubious “gluten-free” craze with today’s show.

If there’s one thing that Dr. Oz is probably most known for, if there’s one scam that Dr. Oz most frequently features on his show, it’s weight loss scams. Most hilariously, recently, Oz went all “under cover,” as though he thought he were Morly Safer and Dan Rather on the 60 Minutes of old (back before Lara Logan, of course), showing up at the office of a ne’er-do-well to confront him in his lair with evidence of his perfidy. It’s the ne’er-do-well he confronted that blew my irony meter. Specifically, it was manufacturers of a supplement, Garcinia Gambogia, which a company had claimed to be endorsed by Dr. Oz. While it’s true that Dr. Oz never endorsed the specific brand of Garcinia Gambogia that the company sold, it’s not hard to figure out where companies get the idea that Dr. Oz recommends Garcinia Gambogia as a weight loss miracle, given that Dr. Oz’s selling of the supplement was described thusly:

As people were getting ready for the holiday season and its accompanying waist expansion late last year, Dr. Mehmet Oz let viewers of his TV show in on a timely little secret. “Everybody wants to know what’s the newest, fastest fat buster,” said the board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon and one of People magazine’s sexiest men alive. “How can I burn fat without spending every waking moment exercising and dieting?”

He then told his audience about a “breakthrough,” “magic,” “holy grail,” even “revolutionary” new fat buster. “I want you to write it down,” America’s doctor urged his audience with a serious and trustworthy stare. After carefully wrapping his lips around the exotic words “Garcinia cambogia,” he added, sternly: “It may be the simple solution you’ve been looking for to bust your body fat for good.”

Then there was the “green coffee bean” incident, in which Dr. Oz, in his eagerness to promote green coffee bean extract as yet another “miracle” weight loss supplement, conducted what was in essence a small unethical clinical trial and touted the results of a company-run clinical trial that did not show nearly as strongly what he claimed it showed. This bogus trial is still featured on Dr. Oz’s website as The Green Coffee Bean Project.

Given his promotion of various supplements and quack diets, Dr. Oz is arguably the most famous promoter of diet scams in the United States, which is why Steve Salzberg owes me a new keyboard, as I was drinking my coffee when I read this press release from Senator Claire McCaskill that he forwarded to me:

WASHINGTON – As millions of Americans fall prey each year to weight-loss diet scams, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill-who chairs the Senate’s Consumer Protection panel-will lead a hearing next Tuesday with testimony from Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of the Dr. Oz Show, to examine deceptive advertising of weight-loss products and to determine what more can be done to protect consumers.

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.

Additionally, the FTC in January announced $34 million in settlements against marketers of fraudulent weight-loss products who deceived consumers with baseless claims. And the FTC issued updated guidance for publishers and broadcasters on how to spot phony weight-loss claims when screening ads for publication.

McCaskill’s hearing in the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection will take place at 10:00 a.m. ET on Tuesday, June 17.

Watch the hearing live next Wednesday, HERE.

With all due respect, Sen. McCaskill owes me a new irony meter. She fried that sucker flat, leaving nothing but a sputtering, sizzling, bubbling blob of qoo with a few copper wires sticking out of it. Dr. Oz testifying about weight loss scams? That’s like asking Al Capone to testify about U.S. tax policy or Stanislaw Burzynski about clinical trial design and ethics. Seriously. The only thing useful that having Dr. Oz testify in front of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection would be to use him as an example of weight loss scams being promoted to millions of people every day through irresponsible television shows.

I mean, seriously. Think about it. McCaskill is touting the FTC’s crackdown on companies selling green coffee bean extract and advertising it with bogus weight loss claims while at the same time respectfully listening to the one person most responsible for fanning the flames of the “green coffee bean craze” to reach new heights of burning stupid. She’s featuring Dr. Oz as though he were an expert at anything other than selling such scams to credulous viewers while disingenuously claiming to be the aggrieved party when companies understandably start using his breathless quotes about various weight loss supplements to hawk their products and even going so far as to brag about the team of enforcers he’s assembled to go after such companies.

You know, I’m half tempted to…aw, screw it! Let’s do it. Later in her press release Sen. McCaskill announces:

Last year, McCaskill launched an effort encouraging consumers to use an online tool on her website that allows individuals to report scams and fraud they encounter in advertising and sales. The “Submit Your Scam” button at www.McCaskill.senate.gov allows constituents to submit personal stories and tips to help McCaskill crack down on scams and protect consumers. McCaskill has also specifically called on Missourians to use the site to share their personal experiences with deceptive weight-loss scams.

It’s tempting to suggest that you do just that and take advantage of Sen. McCaskill’s “Submit your scam” button, particularly if you are one of McCaskill’s constituents. Report Dr. Oz for the weight loss scams he’s promoted on his television show and website, such as Garcinia Gambogia and “belly blasters in a bottle,” among the countless others, such as Oz’s most recent diet claims for forskolin. (I’m having acid flashbacks to my graduate school days and using forskolin in cell cultures.)

The sad thing is that diet supplement scams are real. There are a lot of them out there, and there are lots of people who could speak about them. Having Dr. Oz testify is nothing more than a publicity stunt that will taint the hearings with the stench of hypocrisy. It is a stench that can’t be removed.