Who is Mehmet Oz, the celebrity surgeon running for Senate?
The cardiothoracic surgeon is running as a self-described “conservative outsider,” much in the mold of former President Donald Trump.
Mehmet Oz is best known as the TV celebrity “Dr. Oz” after rising to fame with help from Oprah — but he jumped into electoral politics when he launched a Senate campaign late last year.
Now the cardiothoracic surgeon is running as a self-described “conservative outsider,” much in the mold of former President Donald Trump, banking on his name recognition and personal wealth to power his campaign as one of the Republican front-runners in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race.
He even won Trump’s endorsement in the GOP primary, cementing his status as one of the top Republican candidates.
What is Mehmet Oz’s background?
Born in Cleveland to Turkish immigrants and raised in Wilmington, Del., Oz, 61, is both an accomplished surgeon and showman. He appeared on Oprah’s show as a health expert before spinning off his own daytime series, The Dr. Oz Show, starting in 2009. He parlayed that into lucrative endorsement deals, frequent media appearances, and his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Oz went to Harvard University, where he played football and water polo, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s medical and business schools.
Most of his professional career was spent in New York — he has practiced at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and was director of the Integrative Medicine Center at Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center. He’s now a professor of surgery emeritus at Columbia, according to his campaign.
He earned respect as a surgeon — winning awards and securing patents for innovations — but has also been long criticized for promoting questionable miracle diet pills and other medical advice that other doctors have blasted as inaccurate and unscientific.
Oz lived in North Jersey for more than 30 years and has owned a home in Palm Beach, Fla., but says he has been renting his in-laws’ home in Montgomery County since late 2020. He bought a property there in February, his financial disclosure shows, though he remains at his in-laws’ while his new home is renovated, according to his campaign.
» READ MORE: Does Mehmet Oz live in Pennsylvania?
His campaign has said he moved in late November or early December 2020 — weeks after the state’s incumbent Republican senator, Pat Toomey, said he wouldn’t seek reelection.
Oz, when asked about his residency, points out that he went to graduate school in Philadelphia and got married there, and that his wife’s family has long ties to Montgomery County. He frequently tells audiences he grew up near Kennett Square or south of Philadelphia — without mentioning that it was in Delaware.
What are Mehmet Oz’s top policy priorities?
Oz’s campaign declined repeated requests for an interview about his policy views.
A spokesperson provided a list of top priorities, though with few details about how he would achieve them. The campaign stressed health care as a top concern, saying he would want to “refocus American health care on empowering patients and providing individualized treatments and therapies in a way that lowers costs both for families and the system overall.”
His campaign also emphasized domestic energy production, a common theme for the GOP Senate candidates, calling for “energy dominance in the world. This means fast-tracking completion of pipelines, resuming oil and gas leasing on federal lands, and creating a permitting and regulatory framework that promotes investments in greater energy production.”
Who is backing Mehmet Oz?
Trump, who knew Oz personally from their time in the world of TV, delivered perhaps the most significant endorsement in the GOP primary, putting his weight behind Oz and calling him “Pro-Life, very strong on Crime, the Border” and the Second Amendment.
Two of Pennsylvania’s GOP congressmen, Fred Keller and Lloyd Smucker, immediately followed, joining U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, who backed Oz early on.
Oz has also won over some famous conservative voices, including Fox News host Sean Hannity and musician Ted Nugent.
Oz hopes those endorsements, especially Trump’s, can help counter criticisms from his Republican rivals that Oz isn’t actually conservative, as they point to his past comments on issues like guns, abortion and fracking.
Much of the money for his campaign is coming from his own pocket. Oz’s latest fund-raising disclosure shows he has personally provided more than $11 million of the $13.4 million his campaign has raised. As of mid-April he had purchased the second most TV ad time of any Senate candidate in the country, according to political tracking firm AdImpact.
What else should I know?
Oz would be the first Muslim elected to the Senate and has dual citizenship with Turkey, which he says he maintains to care for his ailing mother. His GOP rivals have hammered Oz for holding citizenship with a country led by a strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, though Turkey is also a NATO ally.
Facing criticism from opponents, Oz said he would renounce his Turkish citizenship if elected.
There’s no rule against having dual citizenship in the Senate, and while rivals have questioned his ties to Pennsylvania, the Constitution’s residency requirements are loose.