Here's Why It Matters that the Senate Grilled Dr. Oz Over Diet Scams

Illustration for article titled Here's Why It Matters that the Senate Grilled Dr. Oz Over Diet Scams

Senator Claire McCaskill, chair of the Senate's Consumer Protection panel, is NOT JAZZED ABOUT DR. OZ. In fact, she spent half of Tuesday grilling him on why he keeps going on television and telling people that if they just eat enough $45 magic beans they'll wake up with a thigh gap like a soccer goal (and then: PERMANENT HAPPINESS). "I don't get why you need to say this stuff, because you know it's not true," McCaskill implored. "My show is about hope," Dr. Oz explained.


Yes, clearly. The "hope" that desperate people will buy your wizard garbage, because they've been taught their whole lives to trust doctors, so you can line your pockets with gold galleons while they continue the cycle of failure, frustration, and fruitless spending that defines the American weight loss industry. Congratulations, liar! Your show fulfilled its mission statement, I guess!

Some amazing quotes, via Mediaite:

"I don't get why you need to say this stuff because you know it's not true," Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) told Oz, according to The Hill. "The scientific community is almost monolithically against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products you called 'miracles.'"

"We didn't call this hearing to beat up on you," she added. "[But] you can either be part of the police or be part of the problem, and we hope you'll do a better job at being part of the police."

..."My job is to be a cheerleader for the audience when they don't think they have hope," said Oz, also a cardiac surgeon.

"I have things I think work for people. I want them to try them so that they feel better, so that they can do the things we talk about every day on the show [like diet and exercise]."

"When I can't use language that is flowery, that is exulting, I feel like I've been disenfranchised."

You can watch the hearing here. It's pretty amazing. He LITERALLY SAYS that magic is real. (Cheat sheet for people thinking about becoming TV doctors who don't want to get yelled at by the senate: Do not use the word "miracle" with a straight face.)

I imagine that yelling at a TV doctor/elven king might strike some people as an utterly pointless (or, at best, undignified) use of a U.S. senator's time. But one important function of our particular government (some might say the entire point) is to try and make sure that people are treated okay. That's kind of why we do the whole government thing. And the weight loss industry is one of the most pervasive, pernicious consumer fraud machines in existence—sowing self-hatred, selling empty promises, blaming consumers for their own despair, and packaging the whole cycle as a charitable act.

Basically, they make people feel like shit and then they charge them for it, knowing that their products will never work (because literally it's just some fucking bean). It goes something like this: 1. Weight loss is the only solution to all problems. 2. Weight loss is as simple as wanting it enough and taking the right pill. 3. Being fat is a physical manifestation of a moral failing. If you're taking the right pill and not losing weight, it's your fault, not the pill's. 4. Being dehumanized and degraded because of your size is justified, because you're choosing to be fat. If you want to be happy, start over again at #1.

Criticizing the weight loss industry is not criticizing individual people's pursuit of health and fitness. Everyone should have the right to treat their body however they like (and "unhealthy" people deserve the same unqualified dignity and respect as "healthy" people, by the way). But the weight loss industry is not about helping people lose weight, and it's definitely not about helping people achieve optimum health. It's about making money. If it worked, it would cease to exist. And a lot of people would be making a lot less cash.


Dr. Oz might be giving people "hope," but it's a false hope—and a cynical, exploitative one. Positivity isn't helpful if you're lying. And that kind of destructive magical thinking shows up in innumerable other areas: Oh, I'm sure climate change will be fine. Oh, I'm sure Jesus will heal my baby's fever. Oh, I'm sure the female body can just shut that whole thing down. That shit needs to be called out, again and again, whether it's being peddled by a goofy Oprah-approved doctor or a GOP senate candidate.

So fuck yeah, Claire McCaskill.

Image via Getty.



What's really scary is that Dr. Oz isn't just a TV doctor. He actually cuts people open.