Ever since “Jeopardy!” attempted to amplify Dr. Mehmet Oz’s upcoming guest-hosting stint on the show, social media users have been lambasting the TV star for being “dangerous” and shilling “medical misinformation for profit.”
Oz, a former health expert on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” has long been a controversial figure in the medical world. In addition to repeatedly peddling scammy weight loss products and providing a platform to “debate” the benefits of conversion therapy, a 2014 British Medical Journal study declared half of his medical advice “baseless or wrong.” In 2015, a group of fellow doctors even wrote to Columbia’s dean of medicine, saying the school’s partnership with him was “unacceptable.”
More recently, Oz — whom Donald Trump appointed to the Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition in 2018 — suggested schools should reopen during the coronavirus pandemic because “only” 2% to 3% more people could die.
Oz’s selection as a “Jeopardy!” guest host is part of the show’s larger effort to have assorted hosts act as stand-ins until a more permanent one takes over for Alex Trebek, the beloved longtime host who died of pancreatic cancer last year.
In February, “Jeopardy!” issued a press release announcing that Oz would be hosting for a period of time, lauding him as the winner of 10 Daytime Emmy Awards for “The Dr. Oz Show” and boasting of his role as attending physician at NewYork Presbyterian-Columbia Medical Center and as the author of “over 400 original publications, book chapters, and medical books.”
The announcement caused an initial ripple of concern, prompting The Ringer to talk to former “Jeopardy!” contestants last month about the decision to put Oz in for Trebek.
Lindsey Shultz, a four-game winner from 2019 who works as a public health analyst, told The Ringer: “When you’ve made your career in the popular media by at best conveying confidence in unproven remedies—and at worst implicitly causing your audience to doubt the process the rest of us live by and have been at wit’s end trying to defend for a full calendar year—I’m not sure a show based around facts is the best place for you.”
Later, more than 500 former “Jeopardy!” contestants signed a letter published on Medium to oppose Oz’s selection as guest host.
“Dr. Oz represents what has become a dubious trend in America: the elevation of the credentialed talking head at the expense of academic rigor and consensus,” reads the letter, which later calls his appointment a “slap in the face to all involved.”
When the “Jeopardy!” Twitter account shared Oz’s introduction for his first appearance on Monday, critics responded by calling him a “dangerous, self enriching fraud” and a “charlatan huckster of pseudo-science.”
The name of actor LeVar Burton even began to trend on Twitter as people shared that they’d wanted the “Reading Rainbow” host to guest-host on “Jeopardy!” instead of Oz.
“Jeopardy!” and LeVar Burton did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Prior to Oz’s hosting gig, Katie Couric acted as host for two weeks and raised $230,504 in donations to Stand Up To Cancer. The cumulative winnings made during Oz’s appearance will go to HealthCorps, “a national non-profit committed to eliminating health inequity in at-risk communities by educating and empowering students by giving them tools to improve their physical and mental health.”