TV personality Mehmet Oz ran into trouble before a Senate panel on Tuesday over his claims that certain substances can cause “miracle” weight loss.
Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” tangled with lawmakers Tuesday in a hearing that generated buzz on Capitol Hill.
Senators took every opportunity to criticize Oz for endorsing certain chemicals as easy routes to weight loss, a rare show of scrutiny for a celebrity witness.
“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 in a comment typical of the hearing’s tone.
Lawmakers are taking an interest in diet fads after a string of actions by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against fraudulent players in the industry.
The FTC is currently suing a Florida company that claimed its Pure Green Coffee product would help users shed 20 pounds in four weeks.
The campaign used footage from Oz’s show, where he discussed the alleged benefits of green coffee extract.
Oz, a bestselling author and cardiac surgeon, acknowledged to lawmakers that he had made the FTC’s job “more difficult” but defended his motives.
“My job is to be a cheerleader for the audience when they don’t think they have hope,” he said.
“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,” he added.
The back-and-forth took place at a Commerce subcommittee hearing led by McCaskill, who received kudos from science and health advocates for her tough stance.
Center for Inquiry spokesman Paul Fidalgo said Oz deserves scrutiny for “peddling ... snake oil” to consumers on his popular daytime talk show.
“Too often celebrity gurus lure consumers into wasting their money and pinning their hopes on pseudoscientific concoctions that are at best useless, and at worst dangerous,” Fidalgo said.
“It was very heartening to see Sen. McCaskill and the members of the committee confront Dr. Oz’s baseless claims head-on.”
At one point, McCaskill called attention to a 2012 segment in which Oz called green coffee extract a “magic weight loss cure for every body type.”
“The scientific community is almost monolithically against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products you called ‘miracles,’ ” she said.
“We didn’t call this hearing to beat up on you. ... [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.”
Oz replied that he’s toned down his language but won’t stop recommending weight-loss remedies to the public.
“I do personally believe in the items that I talk about,” he said.
“If you can lose a pound a week more than you would have lost by using them, it jumpstarts you and gets you going. I think it makes sense.”
The hearing was held by the Senate Commerce subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance.