On my Monday radio show, I praised Oprah Winfrey for her #MeToo speech at the Golden Globes, but tried to scuttle any thoughts of her running for president. My major objection to her has always been her embrace of nonsense and her enabling of people who advocate alternative medicine and flat-out scams, like Mehmet Oz, Phil McGraw, and Jenny McCarthy. We already have an administration that doesn’t embrace real science — why would we want another one, particularly one that promotes such bad information?
Here’s what Julia Belluz, senior health correspondent for Vox (and former guest on my show) says about those three swindlers of pseudoscience…
On Dr. Oz:
As a regular medical expert on Oprah, he used the platform to back a range of questionable health practices, including lending credibility to the Brazilian spirit medium and well-known huckster ”John of God.” The Oprah seal of approval helped Oz get his own show by 2009. Her instincts about his potential were good, in a sense: Oz is immensely popular, and his media empire now extends to books, magazines, radio, websites, and, of course, TV. But on The Dr. Oz Show, the cardiothoracic surgeon has regularly promoted bad science and bogus health advice.
On Dr. Phil:
Like Dr. Oz, McGraw has been censured for using his celebrity and his show for ethically dubious practices. In 2016, he was criticized for peddling diabetes pharmaceuticals through paid sponsorships that were masquerading as friendly advice about a disease from a trusted source. And last December, a Stat investigation uncovered some unethical behind-the-scenes practices on the show, including giving vodka to a guest who was battling alcoholism and asking other guests with severe drug addictions to buy drugs on the street — all for the purposes of entertainment.
On Jenny McCarthy:
Jenny McCarthy has been an ardent anti-vaccine advocate. She helped propel the discredited British doctor Andrew Wakefield, who has argued that vaccines cause autism based on his own fraudulent research, to fame. (McCarthy even co-authored an anti-vax book in 2011 with Wakefield, titled Callous Disregard.) In the media, she’s claimed that vaccines gave her son Evan autism, and that she was able to “cure” him through a special diet and supplements. Of course, the notion that vaccines cause autism has never been supported by science. But Oprah gave McCarthy a vast audience via her TV show in 2007. Days after that Oprah appearance, McCarthy was invited on Larry King Live and Good Morning America to spread her anti-vaccine message even further. Between the three shows, she reached between 15 million and 20 million viewers with her anti-vaccine message.
Previously on Harris Online…
- My conversation with Julia Belluz on Why You Shouldn’t Trust Dr. Oz (1/2/13).
- Julia Belluz on the FDA cracking down on companies that sell bogus dietary supplements (11/18/15).