In response to group of doctors calling for his removal from Columbia University faculty, Oz accuses them of seeking ‘sensational headlines and sound bites’
A week after 10 doctors urged Columbia University to sever ties with Mehmet Oz, the celebrity doctor appeared on his syndicated television show to denounce allegations that he promotes “quack treatments”.
“The 10 doctors who attacked me got what they wanted – sensational headlines and sound bites,” said Oz, known to most of America as Dr Oz. He told his audience he was surprised by the criticisms, and believes that doctors should not fight their battles or each other in public. “But now I believe I must,” he said.
The group of doctors last week urged university officials to remove Oz from a faculty position on the grounds that he promotes “quack treatments” and “has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine, as well as baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops”.
Oz’s response to his critics – first touted in a Facebook post on Friday – has now become an all-out defense campaign that includes an op-ed in Time magazine , an episode-long defense and a follow-up interview on NBC’s Today show last Friday.
The doctors calling for Oz’s dismissal have included his stance on GMO labeling as one of their leading complaints. The stance, while controversial, is not as severe as the other accusations, which have previously landed him in hot water with both the Federal Drug Administration and the US Senate.
On Thursday’s show, Oz discussed a report on a genetically modified apple that aired earlier this month. The apples in question are modified so that they do not turn brown, and Oz has been accused of stirring fear of the apple, which has been approved by regulatory health commissions, in his initial segment.
Henry Miller, the lead author of the Columbia letter, had previously criticized that segment in a piece for Slate, defending the apple as safe and calling Oz’s statements “New Age nonsense”.
Oz didn’t address the critics on his own. Among the guests appearing on the show was Gary Ruskin, cofounder and the executive director of US Right to Know, who denounced Oz’s critics.
“What Henry Miller does is he speaks on behalf of big corporations and he tells big lies on their behalf,” said Ruskin.
Four of the doctors who signed the letter, including Miller, have at some point been associated with the American Council on Science and Health.
“They are rent-a-scientists,” Ruskin said about the council.
In the Time magazine op-ed leading up to Thursday’s episode, Oz defended his stance on GMO labeling, noting that some topics can be controversial but worthwhile.
“And this brings me back to a motive for the letter,” he wrote .
These doctors criticized my ‘baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops’, which is another false accusation. Whether you support genetically engineered crops or not, the freedom to make an informed choice should belong to consumers. The bill in Congress this month proposing to block states from independently requiring labeling offers a coup to pro-GMO groups.”
Gilbert Ross, one of the doctors who signed the letter, is the acting president and executive director of the American Council of Science and Health, which has previously received grants from Monsanto, a manufacturer of GMO seeds. In 1996, Ross had also served a sentence for participating in Medicaid fraud.
“Given the mistake I made more than 20 years ago, I now recognize that I should not have added my name to Dr Henry Miller’s letter,” Ross said in a statement sent to the Guardian .
“Even though I believed in the letter’s content – to focus attention on the often-questionable medical advice Dr Oz dispenses on TV – I see that by doing so it only opened me up to personal criticism. It also diverted necessary attention away from challenging many of Dr Oz’s unscientific claims. My involvement was solely based on trying to protect America’s public health.”
While discussing Ross on Thursday, the show splashed a “convicted felon” across a picture of him.
In a preview clip of Thursday’s show, Oz recognized that he has “irritated some potential allies” in his “quest to make American healthy”.
“No matter our disagreements, freedom of speech is the most fundamental right we have as Americans. And these 10 doctors are trying to silence that right,” he said.
Oz also included a statement from the BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal, which he described as his harshest critic. A BMJ analysis of 40 random episodes of the Dr Oz Show revealed that his recommendations were supported by evidence only 46% of the time, a fact his critics have cited frequently.
On Thursday, Oz shared a statement from the BMJ that said the authors of the study were “disappointed that the overwhelming commentary seems to be that our study somehow proves that Dr Oz or The Doctors are quacks or charlatans or worse. Our data in no way supports these conclusions.”