LOS ANGELES– Dr. Mehmet Oz has experienced controversy since becoming a daytime TV star, having been dressed down by Congress for endorsing “miracle” diet and weight-loss supplements. But the surgeon-turned-TV host nevertheless found himself over his head, wading into health-related issues surrounding the presidential campaign.
“The Dr. Oz Show” featured Donald Trump on Thursday, in what the announcer billed as a “no-holds-barred conversation.” Yet while Oz curtailed any of the GOP nominee’s attempts to deride his rival, the host generally steered clear of logical follow-up questions that would have made the appearance anything more than an infomercial.
To be fair, Oz isn’t a journalist, and there’s nothing unusual about politicians seeking to exhibit lighter sides of themselves on daytime or late-night programs. Like it or not, the road to the White House now runs in part through chats with Jimmy Fallon and Ellen DeGeneres.
Still, Trump’s much-derided note from his doctor calling his physical condition “astonishingly excellent,” coupled with the campaign’s gibes about Hillary Clinton’s health and her bout with pneumonia, made this topic more of a minefield. Nor did Oz help his cause by announcing in advance that he didn’t intend to press the candidate on medical matters Trump didn’t want to discuss.
As anyone paying attention already knows, Trump surprised Oz with a letter from his doctor and test results from a recent exam. But Oz’s on-the-fly analysis quickly gave way to a lot of talk about Trump’s general health that included bragging about everything from his temperament to his golf game.
The safest line of inquiry, frankly, appeared to be exploring broader health policy. But that was where Oz looked unexpectedly out of his depth.
Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, joined them to field almost all of the questions about the candidate’s child-care plan. Trump then criticized Obamacare without offering anything substantial or specific in terms of what might potentially replace it.
While nobody should have anticipated a grilling, when Trump stated that a hypothetical undocumented immigrant wouldn’t need emergency healthcare because under his presidency none would be here, Oz, rather remarkably, simply let that answer stand.
Does the appearance hurt “Dr. Oz?” For most of those who watch his show, probably not, and the short-term ratings boost should be beneficial. But in terms of his image as an authoritative voice on health issues, the episode left a bad taste that will only add to existing misgivings about him.
At the outset, Oz correctly noted that health “has become a front-and-center issue” in the campaign, and extended an offer to Hillary Clinton to come on his show as well. Still, if the goal is to establish “Dr. Oz” as America’s de facto TV doctor, Thursday’s hour provided ample reason to look for a second opinion.