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Dr. Oz-- The Circus Comes To Town... Along With The Killer Clowns

With Pat Toomey is retiring and Pennsylvania is probably the Democrats' best chance for a pickup-- unless Schumer is somehow able to squeeze his Sinema-like conservative candidate, Conor Lamb, into the nomination. Trump moved in fast with an endorsement for a minor right-wing celebrity, Sean Parnell, who was quickly disqualified after a court case exposed him as a wife beater, something he has in common with an astounding number of candidates Trump has endorsed. With Parnell out of the running, the rich crooked real estate developer, Jeff Bartos, who ratted out Parnell, figured he'd slide right into frontrunner status. (So far he's self-funded his campaign to the tune of $1.3 million.much of it used to smear Parnell.) As you can see from last week's poll from Trafalgar, a GOP firm, Bartos is running 4th of 5 candidates pretty third-rate candidates.

There are several other Republicans talking openly about jumping into the race-- minor former Trump officials David McCormick, now hedge fund CEO, and Kenneth Braithwaite and former congressmen Ryan Costello, Chalie Dent and Keith Rothfus. McCormick who lives in Connecticut, is likely to declare his candidacy this week. Last week he put a million dollars of his own into Christmas ads that ran all over Pennsylvania.

But the front runner-- scaring the hell out of the state GOP establishment-- is a clownish Trump character, New Jersey reality TV host Dr. Mehmet Oz. He and McCormack represent what we were talking about a few days ago when we looked at Wall Street billionaires and huckster celebrities following Trump's footsteps into politics. Trip Gabriel took a look at Dr. Oz for NY Times readers this morning. It shouldn't come as a surprise that Dr. Oz is more a circus clown and quack than a serious doctor, the role he plays on TV. He was one of the early boosters of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as COVID remedies, which has cost many thousands of people their lives. (His mother, who still lives in Turkey, was also infected with COVID.) He went on Fox and "in the same be-the-best-you tone that he used to promote miracle weight-loss cures on The Dr. Oz Show, he elevated limited studies that he said showed wondrous promise... When a Veterans Affairs study showed that Covid-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine were more likely to die than untreated patients, that advocacy came to an abrupt halt."

As Dr. Oz jumped last month into the Republican primary for Senate in Pennsylvania, where his celebrity gives him an important advantage in a crucial race, he tied his candidacy to the politics of the pandemic. He appealed to conservatives’ anger at mandates and shutdowns, and at the “people in charge” who, he said, “took away our freedom.”
But the entry into the race of the Cleveland-born heart surgeon, a son of Turkish immigrants who has been the host of The Dr. Oz Show since 2009, also brought renewed scrutiny to the blemishes on his record as one of America’s most famous doctors: his long history of dispensing dubious medical advice.
In ebullient language, he has often made sweeping claims based on thin evidence, which in multiple cases, like that of hydroxychloroquine, unraveled when studies he relied on were shown to be flawed.
Over the years, Dr. Oz, 61, has faced a bipartisan scolding before a Senate committee over claims he made about weight-loss pills, as well as the opposition of some of his physician peers, including a group of 10 doctors who sought his firing from Columbia University’s medical faculty in 2015, arguing that he had “repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine.” Dr. Oz questioned his critics’ motives and Columbia took no action, saying it did not regulate faculty members’ participation in public discourse.
He has warned parents that apple juice contained unsafe levels of arsenic, advice that the Food and Drug Administration called “irresponsible and misleading.” In 2013, he warned women that carrying cellphones in their bras could cause breast cancer, a claim without scientific merit. In 2014, the British Medical Journal analyzed 80 recommendations on Dr. Oz’s show, and concluded that fewer than half were supported by evidence.
Two researchers who worked on The Dr. Oz Show for a year during a break from medical school in the 2010s said in interviews that the show’s producers had originated most of its topics, often getting their ideas from the internet. But the researchers, whose job was to vet medical claims on the show, said that they had little power to push back, and that they regularly questioned the show’s ethics to one another and discussed quitting in protest.
“Our jobs seemed to be endless fighting with producers and being overruled,” said one of the former researchers, both of whom are now physicians and insisted on anonymity because they said they feared that publicly criticizing him could jeopardize their careers.
According to the former researchers, the show’s producers conjured an imaginary, typical viewer named “Shirley,” a woman whose children were grown and who had time to focus on herself. The standard advice for many ailments covered on the show-- obesity, sluggishness, back pain-- was exercise, the researchers said. But there was a quota on how often exercise could be mentioned.
Shirley watched daytime TV and didn’t want to exercise, the researchers said they were told.
Dr. Oz’s on-air medical advice on both his show and Fox News has taken on greater significance as he enters the political realm. His promotion of hydroxychloroquine grabbed President Donald J. Trump’s attention and contributed to early misinformation about the virus on the right.
“Information can harm-- that’s the key thing we need to appreciate here,” said Harald Schmidt, an assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania. “His track record is pretty concerning. What we’ve seen so far does not instill confidence that this will help reasonable politics.”
...Over the years, when pressed about offering unproven medical advice, Dr. Oz said his goal was to “empower” Americans to take control of their health. Grilled by senators in 2014 about false claims he made for weight-loss products, he said, “My job on the show, I feel, is to be a cheerleader for the audience.”
He also said it was his right to use unscientific language. “When I feel as a host of a show that I can’t use words that are flowery,” he told the senators, “I feel like I’ve been disenfranchised, like my power’s been taken away.”
In using the politics of the pandemic to shape his campaign for an open seat-- one pivotal to Senate control in the midterms-- Dr. Oz may be in tune with primary voters in Pennsylvania. The race has drawn candidates echoing Mr. Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen, including Jeff Bartos, a developer, and Carla Sands, a former ambassador. David McCormick, a hedge-fund executive married to a former Trump administration official, is expected to join the field soon.
The criticism Dr. Oz has received over the years for spreading misinformation has done little to tarnish his celebrity, as measured by his long-running TV program, whose distributor announced that the show would end in January when its host departs.
Still, misinformation about the coronavirus emanating from the Trump White House and conservative news sites helped politicize the nation’s response to the pandemic, with deadly consequences in many Republican areas of the country.
...Dr. Oz’s once-daily appearances on Fox had tapered off. He was rarely seen on the network this year. But he returned to Sean Hannity’s show on Nov. 30 to announce his candidacy, seizing the opportunity to push back at critics of his medical career.
“Doctors are about solutions,” he said. “But instead, people with good ideas are shamed, they’re silenced, they’re bullied, they’re canceled.”

Here are the half dozen Pennsylvania counties that voted most strongly for Trump in 2020-- along with their vaccination rates. For comparison's sake, Trump won 48.8% of Pennsylvania's votes and, statewide, 63% are fully vaccinated.

  • Fulton Co.- 85.5% Trump (34% fully vaccinated)

  • Bedford Co.- 83.5% Trump (37% fully vaccinated)

  • Juniata Co.- 80.1% Trump (38% fully vaccinated)

  • Potter Co.- 79.9% Trump (35% fully vaccinated)

  • Jefferson Co.- 78.7% Trump (46% fully vaccinated)

  • Somerset Co.- 77.6% Trump (46% fully vaccinated)

And these are the half dozen counties that gave Trump the lowest proportion of their votes-- along with their vaccination rates. You'll notice the difference and the correlations pretty quickly.

  • Philadelphia Co.- 17.9% Trump (62% fully vaccinated)

  • Delaware Co.- 36.1% Trump (69% fully vaccinated)

  • Montgomery Co.- 36.3% Trump (71% fully vaccinated)

  • Allegeny Co.- 39.2% Trump (66% fully vaccinated)

  • Chester Co.- 40.9% Trump (73% fully vaccinated)

  • Dauphin Co.- 45.1% Trump (58% fully vaccinated)

You might also refer to them as the counties that took Dr. Oz's advice and the counties that didn't. It is no coincidence that Fulton County, for example, gave Trump his strongest majority of any county in the state and is also the least vaccinated county in Pennsylvania. It's in the rural south-central part of the state, hiking distance from West Virginia and the part of the backward Maryland panhandle trying to secede from Maryland and join West Virginia. It's a dying county with fewer people-- 98.25% of whom are white-- today than in 2010. The county seat, McConnellsburg is the biggest town in the county, with 1,220 people, seething in racism and voting for Republicans while praying to be put out of their own hopeless misery.

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