After spreading COVID-19 misinformation on Fox News since early in the pandemic, talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz this week announced his run to represent Pennsylvania in the Senate. Fox News host Sean Hannity teased a big announcement from Oz on his Monday night show, telling his audience, “Hint: Think midterm election.” Oz has promoted unproven treatments for COVID-19, downplayed the severity of the virus, and undermined public health officials since at least January 2020.
Oz's history of medical misinformation started before the pandemic; while hosting daytime talk show The Dr. Oz Show, he repeatedly pushed weight loss pills that he later admitted to Congress lacked “scientific muster.” The British Medical Journal conducted a 2014 study that found that the majority of the medical claims on The Dr. Oz Show were not supported by medical evidence and 11% were in fact contradicted by medical evidence. Despite his history of spreading medical misinformation, Oz became a Fox News regular to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, making at least 81 weekday appearances on the network in 2020, according to Media Matters' internal database.
Oz’s advocacy for alternative therapies and unproven treatments for COVID-19 not only misinformed the public in the early days of the pandemic, but also led to the Trump White House seeking the surgeon’s advice on the pandemic despite his inexperience with epidemiology. And his advice underscored the Trump/Fox News feedback loop, with Trump touting the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine -- unproven to treat COVID-19 -- after Oz had promoted it on the air. A Media Matters study showed Oz was Fox News’ strongest advocate for the treatment, promoting it over 40 times in a two-week period on Fox programs.
From promoting studies that have not been peer reviewed to supporting the reopening of schools in April 2020, here are some of the moments that highlight Oz’s pattern of dishonesty and distortion on the pandemic.
- On Fox & Friends, Dr. Oz claimed “a lot of doctors” feel that “the worry and the panic about coronavirus is going to be worse than the actual coronavirus for them.”
- On Fox & Friends, Oz said that “schools may not be as big a risk as we'd initially feared” in the COVID-19 pandemic.
- While making an appearance on Hannity, Oz said that the “2-3%” spike in mortality that would come from reopening schools in April of 2020 “might be a tradeoff some folks would consider” in order to get “our mojo back.”
- Oz dismissed safety concerns about treating patients with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin despite lack of FDA approval and limited data on effectiveness.
- Oz described convalescent plasma as “very promising” as a treatment for COVID-19. The NIH has since shown that the treatment has no significant benefit.
- Oz claimed the drug losartan is one in a “remarkable” list of treatments for COVID-19 that can “take sniper shots” at the virus.
- Oz stated that if he tested positive for COVID-19, he would “without thinking about it” take both hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin.
- Oz advocated for convalescent plasma as a treatment for COVID-19. Oz called host Sean Hannity “Dr. Hannity” for bringing up the treatment.
- On Fox & Friends, Oz disagreed with Dr. Anthony Fauci's concerns about hydroxychloroquine.
- Oz told Hannity that he takes advice from Fox’s Brian Kilmeade on how to research the coronavirus.
- After touting the use of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin cocktails as a COVID-19 treatment, Dr. Oz boasted about reading a “preprint” of a paper that proved hydroxychloroquine is “safe,” but warned that “combined with other medications like … azithromycin,” patients should “be more cautious.”
- While making an appearance on Fox & Friends, Oz solicited Fox News viewers to join an at-home hydroxychloroquine trial. The trial in question ultimately showed the drug had no benefit in preventing COVID-19.
- After then-President Donald Trump commented in an interview that therapeutics are “going to be fantastic,” Hannity noted that he had Oz on his radio show to advocate for hydroxychloroquine in conjunction with azithromycin and zinc.