Dr. Oz Got Rich Scamming Working People. His Senate Run Is No Different.
The bizarre backstory behind "America's Doctor"
Video produced and edited by Sean Morrow and Anthony Mascorro
You thought you knew the story of Dr. Oz. But we dug deep into his backstory, and it’s even weirder than you could imagine. Brian Tyler Cohen exposes the truth about U.S. Senate candidate and notorious medical grifter Dr. Oz. Below is a full transcript of the video.
[Dr. Oz on Senate Floor in 2014]: A doctor shouldn’t sell products. You wouldn’t trust me if you came to me for advice and I said take my version of a solving cream here. It just doesn’t sound and feel right to me.
[Dr. Oz on his show]: Walk on over here I’ll show you one I like a lot. Our trusted partner Usana makes a product called Hepasil.
[Dr. Oz on his show]: In addition to the magnesium at 20% off what else can you find on the iHerb website?
[iHerb Saleseman]: Over 30,000 wellness products.
[Dr. Oz on his show]: The magic weight loss cure for every body type.
[Weight Loss Saleseman]: You buy it online…
[Dr. Oz in a WalMart ad]: TruBiotics: available in your local WalMart, or on WalMart dot com.
Brian Tyler Cohen: Pennsylvania Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz built an incredibly lucrative career out of the trust in himself he cultivated with the American people. After all, he is…
[Larry King]: America’s doctor, the one and only Dr. Oz!
Brian Tyler Cohen: Did I say “incredibly lucrative career”? I meant “utterly, obscenely, lucrative.” A mandatory financial disclosure form showed Oz and his wife own at least one hundred million dollars in assets.
[Dr. Oz on Facebook Live]: I’m excited to be featured on the cover of the newest issue of Success Magazine.
[Dr. Oz giving keynote at Palm Beach Civic Association dinner]: I don’t know if you know this, but if you ever go on a safari, the elephants—
[Dr. Oz at the grocery store]: That’s twenty dollars for crudite and this doesn’t include the tequila. And we got Joe Biden to thank for this.
Brian Tyler Cohen: And now, like that other rich TV pitchman, he wants to go to Washington.
[Donald Trump at a rally]: I endorsed another person today: Dr Oz in Pennsylvania. You know when you’re on television for 18 years… That’s like a poll, that means people like you.
Brian Tyler Cohen: I worked with the team at The Class Room from More Perfect Union—a nonprofit newsroom amplifying the working class perspective–for a deep dive into what a Senate seat for Oz would mean for the real working people of Pennsylvania who Oz claims to understand.
[Dr. Oz on Fox News]: I’m the son of an immigrant. I believe in the American Dream because I lived it myself.
Brian Tyler Cohen: But how much does he really get it? The average yearly income in Pennsylvania is 35,000 dollars. Doctor Oz made nearly 4 times that doing one speech for…the Pistachio Growers Association.
[Dr. Oz at the Pistachio Growers Association]: One of the elegant aspects of pistachios in particular is you can eat quite a few. You can like pluck them pluck them pluck them.
Brian Tyler Cohen: We dug through pages and pages of campaign finance documents, corporate filings, policy statements, news archives, internal corporate documents, and way too many hours of The Dr. Oz Show. There’s a pattern there: America’s Doctor enriching himself by selling out working people–and their trust in him–to the highest bidder. Now he’s hoping his deceptive marketing practices are good enough to dupe working Pennsylvanians into sending him to Washington. And that has wide-reaching ramifications for the American worker. So let’s dig in:
This is Brian Tyler Cohen meets The Class Room by More Perfect Union.
Oz built a lot of trust early in his career: a hot-shot Ivy League doctor performing high-profile surgeries at one of the most respected hospitals in the country. Then one of the most liked people in America put him on TV and deemed him “America’s Doctor.” People really trusted him.
Oz told the New Yorker in 2013: “The currency that I deal in is trust, and it is trust that has been given to me by Oprah and by Columbia University, and by an audience that has watched over six hundred shows.”
His show created “The Oz Effect.” That’s when Oz recommends an ingredient, food, or cure, and sales noticeably go up.
[Dr. Oz on his show]: Sea buckthorn. It is the new miracle berry.
[Dr. Oz on his show]: The diet aid is sage leaf tea.
Brian Tyler Cohen: But there was a problem with the claims: They weren’t really… scientific. Several manufacturers of a product Oz had recommended–green coffee bean extract–were charged by the Federal Trade Commission for false claims, including quoting Dr. Oz or using clips of his show. Now, Oz said these companies were using his image without his permission, and tried to play the victim himself. Even though he had had one of the guys whose company was sued by the FCC on his show.
[Dr. Oz on his show]: …For anyone who wants to lose weight. I usually don’t recommend weight loss supplements. It’s amazing. Zero side effects.
Brian Tyler Cohen: It led to Oz testifying on the Senate floor in 2014. During his testimony, Oz eventually admitted:
[Dr. Oz on Senate Floor in 2014]: The items I talk about on the show, I passionately study them, I recognize oftentimes they don’t have the scientific muster to present as fact.
Brian Tyler Cohen: A study later that year found that fewer than half of Oz’s recommendations had ANY scientific confirmation, and 15% have been proven completely wrong. So obviously Oz recognized his wrong and never hawked another bogus product again, right? Not even close. Instead, the floodgates were opened; Oz spent the next 8 years and 1200 episodes shilling more stuff.
Just being on TV is lucrative: by 2021 his host salary was 2 million dollars. But he also got 200,000 for producing the show, hundreds of thousands of more for ‘consulting’ with his own production companies, and 7 million dollars in gains from owning those production companies.
But Oz also made a lot of money using his show to push products by what he calls “trusted partners.” Translation: the companies that pay him to shill them. Like Usana, a multi-level-marketing company–you know, those predatory businesses that convince working-class people to become ‘distributors’ so that they take on all the risks of the business, with no benefits. He pushed their healthcare products on his show for years:
[Dr. Oz on his show]: Our trusted partner Usana, makes a product called Procosa.
Our trusted sponsorship partner Usana Health Services makes a product called Hepasil.
Usana is one of the trusted sponsorship partners of the show, and their essentials products contains ingredients designed to nourish, protect and renew your body’s cells.
Brian Tyler Cohen: He had their executives on the show as guests, and showered them with praise. And even danced to “Twist and Shout” with Usana CEO Kevin Guest on guitar and lead vocals.
Internal company documents, like this one, implored “distributors” to use Dr. Oz to sell and upsell products and bring more people into the suspiciously pyramid-shaped scheme. Oz’s financial documents doesn’t show how much Usana paid, but the very existence of the deal shows that it’s not hard to buy Dr. Oz’s word.
He sold out his viewers, using their trust in him to get them to join a predatory business model. And Usana products are ostensibly healthcare. People who trust Oz were buying expensive products, unregulated by the FDA, possibly in lieu of other treatments.
Oz also launched his own health product: ShareCare, an app for connecting patients with doctors and medical advice. Oz pushed ShareCare hard, which makes sense: he has millions of dollars invested in it. But the app wasn’t the real moneymaker for Oz: the working people he convinced to use it were. And the customer was big pharma.
FiercePharma, an industry trade publication, gushed over the brilliance of ShareCare:
“Sharecare specifically works with pharma companies to create custom marketing programs… One campaign educated arthritis patients about a branded treatment and resulted in almost 20% of those targeted visiting their doctor and discussing the brand.”
Because people trusted Dr Oz, they trusted this app to give them health advice. What it gave them, was advertisements. And the platform knew what drugs users might need because it was spying on them. One of the key offerings Sharecare has for pharma: data, and lots of it. Consumers answer more than 100 questions when they join the platform. This after Oz promised: “Allow patients to truly own their own data…”
Oz has already made millions on ShareCare, and still owns a large portion of the company. And those are only the more egregious examples. It was constant. “Trusted partners” included elder care companies, pharmacies, eczema creams, fiber supplements, and products by a company Oz still owns stock in, PanTheryx.
[Dr. Oz on his show]: This is something I think you should have on hand, period. You don’t wanna run to the store when you have diarrhea. Where do you find DiaResQ?
[Dr. Oz in a WalMart ad]: TruBiotics: available in your local WalMart.
Brian Tyler Cohen: Which brings us to today. Dr. Oz is an incredibly wealthy man, having sold the American peoples’ trust in him for 100 million dollars. And he’s turning to that trust again.
[Dr. Oz campaign ad]: I’m Dr. Oz, and I approve this message.
Brian Tyler Cohen: He even does the exact same smile from when he was shilling probiotics for WalMart. And yet despite ALL of the corporate shilling, despite getting rich off of his miracle cures that didn’t work, still Oz keeps up the whole ‘working class’ schtick.
[Dr. Oz on Fox News]: I’m the son of an immigrant. I respect the needs of workers hurt by regulations and overreaching government.
Brian Tyler Cohen: That quote is really telling. Oz wants working people to think it’s “regulations” that are keeping working Pennsylvanians down. That says a lot about who he really speaks for: the ultra-wealthy trying to destroy the few basic labor laws protecting the rest of us. But Dr Oz doesn’t get the rest of us.
[Dr. Oz at 92nd St Y]: It’s very hard to discern differences in the life of someone who is making 50k and 50 million dollars.
Brian Tyler Cohen: How long has it been since he made 50 thousand dollars?
[Larry King]: Don’t you think healthcare is a right?
[Dr. Oz on Larry King]: I think everyone has the right to get healthy, and whether or not you achieve it is up to you.
Brian Tyler Cohen: Up to you? Should the 130,000 uninsured children in Pennsylvania simply “achieve health?” Should they just take some berry Dr. Oz called a miracle? As a candidate, when he talks about ‘working class issues’ he generally takes the side of bosses.
[Dr. Oz on TikTok]: Flinchy’s was forced to shut down on Mondays because people don’t wanna work!
Brian Tyler Cohen: Like this pizza shop owner not paying his drivers well enough to afford gas.
[Flinchy’s owner]: Every time they make 100 bucks they gotta put 100 bucks into their car.
Brian Tyler Cohen: Or the visit he made to a factory floor––for a TikTok––at a company that was sued last year for wage theft. Not paying employees for the time they spent suiting up to deal with dangerous chemicals.
And what does he think of unions? He spread a conspiracy theory that teachers unions were colluding with the CDC to keep schools closed.
[Dr. Oz on Newsmax]: The federal teachers union insight is very damaging. It shows that the cdc was actually taking insights and changing its guidance based on what the federal teachers unions were saying.
Brian Tyler Cohen: What is he even accusing the teachers union of? A dastardly plan to…keep their workers safe? And if you can’t find work or are otherwise underemployed? Oz thinks it’s because you smoke too much weed.
[Dr. Oz on Greg Kelly]: Ya know there’re not enough Pennsylvanians to work in Pennsylvania, so giving them pot so they stay home is not an ideal move.
Brian Tyler Cohen: Perhaps Oz is more likely to support bosses than working people because it’s who he spends his time with. Not only does Oz have his own wealth, but he married into an incredibly rich family. On mandatory financial disclosure forms, Oz and his wife reported $100 million in assets.
Trust funds, businesses, stock, a cattle farm, and homes in Turkey, New York, New Jersey, and Palm Beach, Florida. Palm Beach is one of the richest zip codes in America, dotted with extravagant mansions. Oz is heavily involved in Palm
Beach society. He’s a sitting director on the board of the Palm Beach Civic Association, and even lent them his shilling skills for a $350 lunch.
[Dr. Oz on his show]: I’ll be talking about how to live the food life.
[Dr. Oz at Palm Beach Civic Association]: Many in this room don’t have to deal with money.
Brian Tyler Cohen: They really don’t. Oz told a Palm Beach newspaper his favorite thing to eat in town is 40-dollar ravioli. Real man of the people. Oz loves Palm Beach, and Palm Beach really loves Oz. FEC documents show dozens of massive donations to Oz’s campaign and SuperPAC from the Palm Beach zipcode–which is 1000 miles from Pennsylvania, you know, the… state where Oz is… running for… senate.
These donors are Oz’s neighbors and community: billionaire hedge fund and private equity managers, and people like Nelson Peltz—the vulture capitalist who took over Wendy’s, and oversaw the company’s refusal to acknowledge farmworker’s demands for basic rights, as More Perfect Union covered. Don’t forget to follow them for more on the fight for worker power.
But Palm Beach donors are just the beginning. We know about the ‘trusted partners’ of Oz’s TV doctor career–the sponsors Oz sold working Americans out to. So who are the “trusted partners” of Oz’s political career? Some of the top donors to Oz’s SuperPAC–we’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars here–are Gerald Lemole, his step-father. John Mack, the former Morgan Stanley CEO whose involvement in the 2008 financial crisis was immortalized by Tony Shaloub in Too Big to Fail. John Childs, a private equity billionaire who was pushed out of his firm after he was charged in a massage parlor human trafficking bust.
And a mysterious corporation, Bison Valley LLC, formed within weeks of Oz announcing his campaign. It’s impossible to see who is behind the company, because it was created by a law firm specializing in “legal and non-legal wealth preservation to the high net worth,” because of course it is.
But what can we learn about possible actual policy from this list? Let’s dig deeper.
Like this 100,000 dollar donation from Terry Lacore, of Lacore Enterprises. Lacore donates to a lot of Republicans, but this year his by far biggest donation was to Oz. Lacore Enterprises–like Oz’s old favorite Usana–is heavily involved in multi-level marketing. So is SGII Inc., SeneGence, whose executives also made several large Oz donations. SeneGence is a member of the Direct Selling Association, the industry group for MLM’s.
Days after Oz won his primary, he gave the keynote speech at the “CEO Breakfast” for the industry group—and he’s been going to their events for years. But this isn’t just an “MLMs are bad and culty” thing. The Direct Selling Association has political goals that would affect every working American. MLMs rely on their ‘distributors’ being independent contractors rather than full employees to deny them benefits and basic labor protections.
The Association lobbied against the Pro Act because it would have extended NLRB protection—the right to organize and unionize––to far more workers… like their distributors. But it’s not just MLMs. The Direct Selling Association is part of a coalition of companies and trade groups supporting the deceptively named “Worker Flexibility and Choice Act.” It would narrow the definition of ‘employee’ so far more workers would be independent contractors, meaning fewer rights in the workplace.
It would give employers a pathway to deny basic rights like worker’s comp, insurance, overtime, severance, and even a minimum wage. Worker misclassification—that’s when an employee is wrongly sorted as an independent contractor so they lose protections—is already a huge problem for working people in Pennsylvania.
The state’s Worker Misclassification Task Force found 50,000 employers misclassify at least one employee. 390,000 workers are misclassified, and nearly 12,000 misclassified workers who were injured were denied workers comp, totaling 176 million dollars in stolen medical coverage and lost wages.
Oz hasn’t made any public statement on worker classification but if you look at the industries and organizations who endorsed anti-worker bills, there is a lot of crossover with Oz’s donor list: temporary staffing agencies and their owners-–one of whom tried to hide his donation behind an LLC—home care firms, the fast food industry, and construction and trucking firms. And remember what Oz said about helping workers:
[Dr. Oz on Fox News]: …Workers hurt by regulations…
Brian Tyler Cohen: Those ‘regulations’ are there to protect workers and provide basic protections. Worker protections are just one of the important regulations Oz and his benefactors would financially benefit from destroying: food and drug safety regulations, truth in advertising laws, and limits on pharmaceutical marketing. And of course the fight by the ultra-rich to destroy worker protections goes beyond Dr. Oz and his benefactors.
The corporate right has been trying similar legislation for years. It’s a major priority of the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity. AFP endorsed Oz in the general election of course, but the Koch family’s private equity firm also owns 9 million shares of ShareCare… the company Oz started. Because Dr Oz sees working people as something to sell out, or sell to.
First, it was miracle cures, multi-level marketing, and data harvesting apps. Now it’s himself as a miracle Senator to fix inflation and reduce gas prices. Oz is truly an amazing pitchman: he builds trust, then takes advantage. Working people in Pennsylvania need to make sure they don’t fall for it.
This has been a collaboration with The Class Room at More Perfect Union. They are doing amazing work using reporting and explanatory journalism to help working people be seen and heard. So head over to More Perfect Union’s channel or find the link in the post description of THIS video, and hit subscribe. Make sure you show them some support, and who knows—we might get a deep dive exposing another senate candidate or two. Again, that’s More Perfect Union—subscribe today.