Before Dr. Mehmet Oz became a Senate candidate in the crucial swing state of Pennsylvania, he was a fixture of daytime TV. There, those who worked on “The Dr. Oz Show” told Insider, Oz’s perfectionism was on display, as were early signs of his political ambition.
“I think part of the reason he came on TV was to ramp up his profile so at some point he could go into politics,” a person involved in the inception of “The Dr. Oz Show” told Insider. “He’s definitely the kind of person who will do what he has to do to get what he wants.”
Oz’s 2016 Trump interview caused disillusionment among the staff
Initially, “The Dr. Oz Show” was carefully apolitical, featuring everybody from then-first lady Michelle Obama (multiple times) to former Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as a slew of celebrities. But that began to shift in 2016 with the appearance on the show of then-candidate Donald Trump.
Oz interviewed Trump in September 2016. Among other things, the interview touched on Trump’s medical records. The interview disturbed Oz’s staff, according to two producers who worked on the show at the time.
Oz “allowed the man to lie about his weight and height, and those are pretty basic things,” one of the former producers said. “It felt like a lap-dog interview.” (On the campaign trail, Trump’s mischaracterizations of his height and weight became emblematic of his tendency to tell bald-faced lies, and raised questions about his physical fitness.)
The bump from the Trump interview wasn’t enough to sustain ratings for “The Dr. Oz Show,” which declined steadily after its third season, losing out to rival “Dr. Phil.” It did, however, affect the attitude among Oz’s staff.
“It really did have an impact on morale because we felt we had made him more palatable to Middle America and given him a seal of approval,” the former producer added of Trump.
From talk show guest to game-changing endorsement
Now, Trump is Oz’s most prominent endorser. Last August, he tapped the doctor over fellow Republican David McCormick, whose wife, Dina Powell, served in the Trump administration.
Oz’s choice to pursue politics caught many of his employees off guard. “This was somebody who had acquired a great deal of success and financial gain and had already been under public scrutiny — why would someone pursue that on top of the level they had already achieved?” the first former producer asked.
Once Oz unveiled his campaign platform, taking a hard line on immigration, abortion, and gun control, and lamenting elites being “all too happy to tell you how to live your life,” their questions intensified.
The second former producer wondered if Oz really believes in what she called this “kooky, crazy” platform. “He’s saying this stuff about elites,” the producer said. “I’m like, ‘Dude, you’ve got a basketball court in your house.'”