For those of you returning from an outing to the Andromeda Galaxy, Donald Trump is the Republican candidate for President of the USA. And Dr. Oz is the medical quack who pushes pseudoscience and junk medicine. Yesterday, Dr. Oz and Donald Trump met on Oz’s TV show to talk about Trump’s health record. If you think this showed us anything useful, I’ve got some weed that will cure every cancer.
I was not surprised when, earlier this week, someone announced that Trump would discuss his health with Dr. Oz. My first thoughts were, “of course he would.” If I wanted anyone to do the least critical questioning of Trump, I’d choose Matt Lauer to ask Trump about international affairs, and Dr. Oz to ask him about medical issues.
Since this feathery dinosaur loves politics and trashing junk science, it feels as though it can’t resist the opportunity for some fun. Who wouldn’t?
All about Dr. Oz
Dr. Mehmet Oz, known by his TV personality as Dr. Oz, is a cardiac surgeon and host of his eponymous TV show. Dr. Oz is not very popular with the science based medicine community as a result of his pushing of alternative medicine and pseudoscience on his show. There is no level to which he will sink. Oz even thinks homeopathy is worth considering.
In the past, Dr. Oz has pontificated about GMOs, claiming that they caused cancer. This was based on the roundly criticized, debunked and ultimately retracted study by Gilles-Eric Séralini. Apparently, Dr. Oz couldn’t be bothered by the overwhelming science, and made claims that were simply untrue.
Unless you want to stretch the meaning of “credible scientist,” Dr. Oz is not credible, at least from science based perspective. He is apparently an accomplished cardiac surgeon, but as I keep saying, just because someone is an expert in one field, does not make them an expert in another. Dr. Oz is the perfect metaphor for the appeal to false authority.
Now I haven’t spent much time criticizing Dr. Oz, probably because I’ve spent more time mocking Andrew Wakefield.
But if you want a few samples of Dr. Oz’s lack of credibility, here we go:
- He pushed green coffee beans as a weight loss supplement. They don’t work. And it’s just plain pseudoscience.
- He pushed the fact that carrying a cell phone in your bra (if you wear one) causes cancer. No, it does not.
- Dr. Oz pushes 15 super foods. More pseudoscience.
So, are you convinced? What better place on TV to talk about the medical issues of a non-fact based politician? Yes, speak with a non-fact based physician.
Dr. Oz and Donald Trump sitting in a tree
So let’s get to the heart of this matter (pun intended) – what have we learned about the “interview” between Dr. Oz and Donald Trump? Have we learned anything important about Donald Trump’s health?
Well, the interview itself was quite boring. It included pontificating from Trump with his trademarked overuse of adverbs and adjectives. And an utter lack of critical questioning from Dr. Oz.
But truly, did we expect anything else?
They are both all about the money. Oz pushes his nonsense, because it makes him money by getting advertisers for his show. Trump, obviously, pushes his own form of ignorance to make money for his business empire. Seriously, these two are almost exactly alike in this respect.
Moreover, just like Trump trying to be kinder and gentler, Dr. Oz promised to quit pushing pseudoscience. I think that it’s not going well in these attempts for either TV personality.
The key moment of this lovefest was when Oz asked Trump “If your health is as strong as it seems … why not share your medical records?”
In an apparent homage to the Gold Star father, Khizr Khan, who dramatically pulled out his pocket copy of the US Constitution in a speech to the Democratic National Convention, Trump dramatically pulled his medical records out of his jacket.
Now, when I think of medical records, I think of large files in a brown folder with lab tests, EKGs, angiograms, notes, and interpretations. I don’t think of two pages letter. But in this season of politics, our bars for real information are set quite low.
This is partially a problem with news reporting. Journalists these days are borderline useless in this election. Medical records are what I described – they are detailed, informative, and allow any physician to review them and state a conclusion on the relative health of a person.
In 2008, John McCain released detailed medical records, not just a one page letter from one physician. Partially, McCain did this because of his age (no different than age of Clinton and Trump today), and because he had suffered a lot of hardship while imprisoned by North Vietnam.
What Trump gave Oz was nothing more than propaganda. It was a letter from Dr. Harold Bornstein, who was roundly ridiculed for his first letter about Trump, saying that Trump would be the healthiest president ever.
And of course, Dr. Oz and Donald Trump engaged in, what Orac the wise explained, a “huckster bromance.” I may have puked a little.
No. I did puke. Sorry.
Like the aforementioned Matt Lauer, who showed little to no backbone in criticizing Trump’s lies, Dr. Oz showed no critical thinking skills. He didn’t ask for detailed laboratory results. He didn’t ask for any information. He didn’t push the fact that Trump’s weight appears to be much higher than is in the “report.” He could have pushed this issue by wheeling in a medical scale to measure Trump’s actual weight and BMI.
But that doesn’t matter, because Trump may well be healthy. That’s not the problem. By engaging in this “huckster bromance,” Dr. Oz seemed to endorse the trope that Trump is “the healthiest person to ever run for president,” or whatever it is today.
For example, one of the most disgusting and disingenuous parts of the discussion was about Trump’s testosterone number. The little winks and gestures towards each other made it seem like “Trump is a manly man.” According to the letter, Trump has a testosterone level of 441.
If we’re talking about total testosterone levels, 441 is actually on the low end of the scale. The reference range for total testosterone is around 250-1100. If Trump is going to use his testosterone level as proof of his virility, I’d have to say he’s not what he claims he is. (One caveat is that Dr. Bornstein didn’t tell us what testosterone test was given – if it’s free testosterone, Trump better get to a real doctor now.)
This whole charade just did one thing – allowed Trump to campaign to the audience who listens to Dr. Oz’s nonsense. And to tell us that Trump really has kind of lowish testosterone levels. Orac the aforementioned summed it up perfectly:
I think the public has a right to Trump’s records, medical, tax or otherwise, because he’s asking America to vote for him to become the most powerful leader on this planet. And he’s not giving us anything useful.
We’ve had to put up with the asinine quackfest regarding Hillary Clinton’s health, pushed by a right wing anti-science physician’s group. Now, we get a “huckster bromance” that provides us with no real information about Trump’s health.
I watched this episode so that you wouldn’t. I need to bathe.