The fallout from the Senate’s Oz-fest: Defending the indefensible


It’s been three days since America’s quack, Dr. Mehmet Oz, had his posterior handed to him by a wily old prosecutor who is now a Senator, Claire McCaskill. The beauty of it is that, not only was Dr. Oz called, in essence, a liar to his face and not only was he called out for his irresponsible and hypercaffeinated promotion of various diet scams on his show, which is seen by millions every day, but he didn’t see it coming, and his public spanking as he testified in front of Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance, chaired by Sen. McCaskill, made instant news, with extensive coverage on national television, in newspapers, and, of course, in the blogosphere. “Deer in the headlights” images of Dr. Oz have proliferated, as have images of a most discomfited, nervous Dr. Oz, looking very much unlike his normal charismatic smarmy persona that we see on his daytime TV show.

All of this is a good thing, but it’s not enough. Dr. Oz is, like the humongous, giant clam with little feet that let him move around featured in the story told as part of Arlo Guthrie’s rather bizarre (but hilarious) The Story of Reuben Clamzo & His Strange Daughter in the Key of A, “hurt but not defeated” and “ready to strike again when the opportunity was right.” Also, Dr. Oz has a very large and very dedicated fan base. Even in my post, there are occasional trolls who try to defend him or call me a “pharma shill,” but in the news stories in mainstream sources Oz fans are out in force, while over at, the ever=hyperbolic, ever over-the-top Mike Adams, not content to launch an attack in which he accuses McCaskill of “unleashing Orwellian thought crimes attack on Doctor Oz for trying to help Americans overcome obesity,” followed up with classic “pharma shill” gambit entitled Senator who attacked Doctor Oz over dietary supplements received over $146,000 in campaign contributions from Big Pharma mega-retailer and Monsanto. Mikey, as is his wont, can’t help but turn the crazy up to 11:

Now Natural News has learned that Sen. McCaskill received over $146,000 in campaign contributions from one of the largest pharmaceutical retailers in North America. According to campaign contribution data published at, prescription drug mega-retailer Express Scripts gave McCaskill over $109,000 in campaign contributions, most of which was routed through lobbyist groups or PACs. (1)

Sen. McCaskill also accepted over $37,000 from Monsanto, widely regarded to be the most evil corporation in the world and an enemy of sustainable food production, heirloom seeds and traditional American farming methods.

Strangely, McCaskill also received over $32,000 from Google, Inc., and another $29,000 from Comcast.

Monsanto, of course, is based in St. Louis. Indeed, over a decade ago I visited its corporate headquarters to give a talk with a couple of other members of the faculty of the medical school where I worked back then. Obviously, I know that makes me not only a pharma shill but a GMO shill, even though I received no money other than reimbursement for travel, lodging and meals for an overnight stay and haven’t been back since. Of course, although I’ve seen ads for Dr. Oz doing a couple of shows on GMOs and the pseudoscientific fear mongering about them (actually, Oz contributed to the pseudoscientific fear mongering about them), GMOs appear to be a very tiny part of what Dr. Oz does; so it’s not clear why Monsanto would want to take him down, although I suppose it is in conspiracyworld. In any case, it’s obvious to Adams that McCaskill must be in the pocket of big pharma and Monsanto because, well, in Mike Adams’ world no one criticizes people like Dr. Oz unless she’s in the pocket of big pharma and Monsanto. Of course, I’m actually surprised that Oz couldn’t find any contributions from pharmaceutical companies, given how pervasive pharma influence is in Congress. The worst he could find was a donation from Monsanto, a home state company, and Express Scripts, a company I hadn’t even heard of before reading Adams’ attack?

Of course, the pharma shill gambit is mild and sane by comparison to Adams’ usual rants, and in this one he comes across as a starstruck schoolboy grateful for having been allowed to bask in Dr. Oz’s star power for a few minutes on his show and having been exposed to millions of Dr. Oz’s viewers. That is the problem, though, with Dr. Oz: He had a quack like Mike Adams on his show and took his claims to be a “food safety” watchdog and “food scientist” seriously. It’s one big reason why I dropped my reticence towards using the term with Dr. Oz and dubbed him “America’s quack.” As I pointed out, having a scammer like Mike Adams on his show and representing him as some sort of “whistleblower” and “food safety activist” is akin to having Andrew Wakefield on a show and portraying him as a “vaccine safety activist.”

Not surprisingly, Mike Adams isn’t the only quack who’s shown up to defend Dr. Oz from Sen. McCaskill. An acupuncturist who has been a guest on Dr. Oz’s show is also not happy. Her name is Jill Blakeway, and she wrote a piece for her blog entitled My experience on The Dr. Oz Show:

He [Dr. Oz] may be guilty of enthusiastic language, but as someone who’s appeared on his show many times I don’t think he’s guilty of being misleading. In fact I’ve always found that both he and his team take great pains to make sure that the herbs and supplements they feature are both effective and safe.

Whenever I have been asked to appear on a segment on The Dr. Oz Show, I have been asked to submit research about the herbs or treatment I’m due to talk about. This research has then been scrutinized both by the producers and a medical committee composed of MD’s. This committee has the power to veto anything that has insufficient science to back it up. In my experience they do just that. I’ve sometimes suggested a herb that is used routinely in Asia, but has little western research and found that it cannot be featured on the show because the producers require clinical data about its efficacy in English.

Of course, Blakeway is an acupuncturist. Consequently, her judgment with respect to what constitutes scientific rigor is automatically suspect. After all, if she had a good understanding of what constitutes scientific rigor, she wouldn’t be an acupuncturist in the first place. Out of curiosity, I searched for her name on Dr. Oz’s show website and found that, indeed, she has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show many times. A couple of the segments included:

  • Relieve Stress with Acupuncture Beads. Dr. Oz has Blakeway on to demonstrate “acupuncture beads,” which appears to be a variant of auricular acupuncture. Blakeway blathers on about how the ear is a “microcosm of the rest of your body,” and Dr. Oz doesn’t challenge that at all, even when she points out points on a giant picture of the ear that supposedly map to the kidney or the heart. Remember, auricular acupuncture is nonsense. Oz even refers to acupuncture as the “gold standard” for stress relief.
  • Dr. Oz’s Best Alternative Health Remedies. Dr. Oz and a bunch of his audience members receive acupuncture at the hands of Blakeway.
  • Dr. Oz’s 24-Hour Stress Cleanse.

Clearly, Dr. Oz’s staff’s examination of the scientific evidence was not particularly rigorous, but it impressed Blakeway. That’s not surprising. A quick perusal of her practice’s website, Yinova Medicine, shows that she offers all sorts of dubious traditional Chinese medicine treatments, including acupuncture (of course!), moxibustion, cupping, and traditional Chinese medical diagnosis. Not surprisingly, the Yinova Center has a naturopath on staff and offers naturopathic medicine. Naturopathy, as regular readers know, is a form of quackery that consists of a cornucopia of pseudoscientific techniques, including homeopathy, tradition Chinese medicine, and many others, all wrapped up in a philosophy consisting of prescientific vitalism with a patina of science slapped on the whole mystical pseudoscientific edifice to fool people who don’t look too deeply. Irritatingly to me, the Yinova center also treats cancer patients. Let’s just put it this way. The Yinova Center offers oil pulling, which is pure woo.

What about Dr. Oz himself? Clearly, he was blindsided, as an unnamed source affiliated with his production company revealed. Oz expected to be the hero, someone testifying about how his name is being “abused” by unscrupulous weight loss supplement scammers, but instead he became the main target. So a couple of days ago, he posted this to his Facebook page:

I was pleased that the hearing yesterday dealt with some complicated issues and had all the players present whose cooperation will be necessary 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 and I believe the research surrounding the products I cover has value. I took part in the 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. To not have the conversation about supplements at all, however, would be a disservice to the viewer. 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 yesterday in finding a way to deal with the problems of weight loss scams.

Translation: I’m sorry. I know my “enthusiastic language” (in reality shameless, hyperbole-laced hucksterism) is a major contributor to the problem of weight loss scams, but it’s all part of the “conversation.” And, because I’ve abandoned all my scientific principles, I actually believe the crap research supporting these supplements I promote. At least, that’s what I tell myself. The money makes it all better. I’ll be happy to work with regulators to help fix the problem, but only as long as it doesn’t require me to change anything that I’m doing.

No, Dr. Oz still doesn’t get it. Given that his current season is either over or almost over—I don’t know for sure because I don’t follow the show, which only reaches my consciousness when an ad for a show featuring a particularly egregious bit of quackery or big quack happens to catch my attention—likely we’ll have to wait until September to see how Dr. Oz reacts to his very public spanking at the hands of the Senate. My guess is that he’ll two things: (1) play the victim and say he walked into a trap (the latter of which is probably true) and (2) tone down the “miracle” rhetoric and do fewer segments about weight loss. However, I also guess that he won’t be able to tone down the “miracle” rhetoric very long—or cut down on the number of show segments about weight loss—because weight loss is by far the most popular topic in such shows, and people want quick fixes. Adhering too long to true science-based medicine as topics on his show is a sure recipe for ratings disaster, and Dr. Oz’s ratings didn’t skyrocket until after he embraced the dark side of quackery. That’s why I’m guessing that by January The Dr. Oz Show will be back to the same as it ever was, if not even worse, with a fresh dollop of persecution complex.