On April 16, a group of 10 medical professionals penned a letter asking Columbia University to reconsider its relationship with Dr. Mehmet Oz, who currently holds a faculty position with the medical school. That move has now opened a can of worms that will likely result in everyone involved looking even more stupid than before.
The letter, which was addressed to Dr. Lee Goldman, the dean of the medical school, cited Dr. Oz’s dubious relationship with scientific facts and his affinity for the “quack treatments” he pushes on his television show for his own financial gain.
The LA Times reports that Dr. Oz will respond to the attack with his own juvenile mud-slinging.
Oz’s TV producers say he’ll be devoting a large portion of a forthcoming “Dr. Oz” show, probably Thursday’s, to a counterattack. Of the doctors behind the letter, the producers say, “We plan to show America who these authors are, because discussion of health topics should be free of intimidation.”
To be clear, Dr. Oz is the real problem here—he has an enormous platform with which he pushes bad science and products that have been proven not to work.
The issue is that two of the authors of the letter have shady pasts of their own, which will allow Dr. Oz and his producers to deflect criticism instead of focusing on the fact that they routinely make shit up and sell it as sound medical advice.
One of the authors, Dr. Henry I. Miller, is a fellow at the Hoover Institution—a conservative think tank that denies climate change. Miller himself has also been an open proponent of GMOs.
Dr. Gilbert Ross is the President and Executive Director of the American Council on Science and Health, which, the Times notes, “has taken money, and courted donations, from big corporate interests, including the tobacco and petroleum industries, and from organizations connected to the Koch family.”
Further, Dr. Ross has a checkered past that calls into question his trustworthiness.
Ross himself may be vulnerable to an ad hominem attack: in the 1990s he did time in federal prison and his New York physicians license was revoked for his participation in a Medicare fraud scheme. His license was eventually reinstated, but an ACSH spokesman says he doesn’t see patients anymore.
It’s like the Three Stooges of medicine we got here.
The open letter, while it has its points, was largely unnecessary. It’s not as if they presented any new information, and we all know Columbia wasn’t actually going to remove Oz because 10 doctors asked them to. Do we seriously think the school hasn’t watched a single episode of his show or heard about the time the United States Senate called him out on his bullshit?
Ross and Miller, of course, argue that any of their personal or organizational issues don’t take away from the fact that Dr. Oz is a quack—and they’re right. But now they’ve opened the door for Dr. Oz and his team to go on national television and present pretty decent evidence that this specific attack towards him should be questioned.
The result of all this will be several grown men with medical degrees calling each other names, and when the dust clears, Dr. Oz will still be on television telling America about a magical weight loss and youth-preserving beanstalk.
Image via Getty.