Dr. Oz, now a Pennsylvania Senate candidate, wants to ‘reignite our divine spark’

Dr. Mehmet Oz poses for a photo

Dr. Mehmet Oz attends the 14th annual L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth Gala at the Pierre Hotel on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

There are more than two dozen campaign committees active in Pennsylvania’s 2022 race for U.S. Senate, and on Tuesday afternoon, one more joined the mix: Doctor Oz for Senate.

For weeks, rumors have swirled in Pennsylvania that Mehmet Oz, the celebrity heart surgeon best known as Dr. Oz, was interested in the seat, and on his Fox News show, Sean Hannity heavily implied an announcement was coming this week.

Oz confirmed the news himself on Tuesday in a video posted to his Twitter account, which has 3.8 million followers.

Filmed on what looks like his TV set, he pitched himself as anti-establishment, and said Washington “took away our freedom” and “tried to kill our spirit and our dignity” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Pennsylvania needs a conservative who will put America first, one who can reignite our divine spark, bravely fight for freedom, and tell it like it is,” Oz said, echoing the campaign rhetoric of fellow TV personality-turned-politician Donald Trump. “That’s why I’m running for Senate.”

It immediately attracted attention, much of it focused on the fact that until very recently, Oz lived in New Jersey.

New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell, a Democrat, tweeted — sarcastically — that he wanted “to congratulate my North Jersey constituent Dr. Oz on his run for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania. I’m sure this fully genuine candidacy will capture the hearts of Pennsylvanians.”

In early 2020, Oz and his wife, Lisa Lemole Oz, both registered to vote as Republicans in Pennsylvania. They listed as their address a Bryn Athyn house also listed as Lisa’s parents’ residence.

The Montgomery County address included in Oz’s statement of candidacy is for a Huntington Valley medical office and supply store connected to his wife’s father, Gerald Lemole, a doctor. Calls to the office went unanswered. Political operatives rumored to be involved in Oz’s campaign also didn’t return requests for comment.

Oz’s own connection to Pennsylvania seems to be tenuous. He received his MD and MBA at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine and Penn’s Wharton School, then departed for a residency at Columbia University.

During his medical career, Oz practiced cardiothoracic surgery and is credited with several major innovations in the field, including developing the left ventricular assist device, a mechanical pump used to keep heart transplant patients alive while waiting for a donor heart.

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His regular TV appearances began in the early 2000s, when Oprah Winfrey began having him on her show as a medical expert. He launched The Dr. Oz Show in 2009. All the while, he has frequently touted alternative and homeopathic treatments — a propensity that has gotten him labeled a quack by others in the medical profession.

In particular, Oz has a long history of “miracle” supplements, often diet pills. In 2014, he got what seems to be his most relevant political experience, when he was called to testify before the chamber’s subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance in an investigation into weight loss product fraud.

At issue was a questionable study that Oz had cited on TV that said a green coffee extract pill could help with weight loss. The Federal Trade Commission went after the company that made the supplements, alleging they falsified the data behind their claims, and the company ultimately settled a $3.5 million lawsuit. The journals and researchers who published the weight loss study were forced to retract it.

“I don’t get why you need to say this stuff because you know it’s not true,” then U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill told Oz at that hearing.

Oz joins a crowded GOP field for Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate seat, which is wide open after GOP Sen. Pat Toomey’s decision not to seek reelection. It recently saw a major shakeup when Sean Parnell, the candidate who had won an early Trump endorsement, suspended his campaign amid a public custody battle that saw his estranged wife accuse him of abusing her and their children.

Other candidates in the running for the GOP nomination are Montgomery County real estate developer Jeff Bartos, investment firm CEO Carla Sands — who technically lives in Camp Hill but was, until very recently, based in California — and Trump-aligned political commentator Kathy Barnette.

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