As Dr. Mehmet Oz takes over as guest host of “Jeopardy!” this week and next, it’s with a cloud over his head in the form of a letter signed by hundreds of past contestants who don’t want him there.
“Dr. Oz stands in opposition to everything that Jeopardy! stands for. Jeopardy! is a show that values facts and knowledge. Throughout his nearly two decades on television he has used his authority as a doctor to push harmful ideas onto the American public, in stark contrast with his oath to first do no harm,” says the letter, which was posted late last month and questions Oz’s integrity as a physician and purveyor of facts.
At issue: Oz’s support for unproved supplements, legitimizing gay conversion therapy and promoting the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19. Oz is also accused of promoting dangerous autism “cures,” though some study of his website reveals only an investigation into the dangers of a bleach treatment. He has had discussions about the causes of autism, including segments about vaccines.
The more than 500 signatories on the Feb. 24 letter, posted on Medium, include a handful of medical doctors and a contestant from as far back as 1991, though the bulk are from more recent years.
“Dr. Oz represents what has become a dubious trend in America: the elevation of the credentialed talking head at the expense of academic rigor and consensus,” the letter said about the 10-time Daytime Emmy winner. “We once viewed intelligence and genius as something that a single heroic intellect could embody. We have since learned and we now understand that we do much better at study and science when we approach it as a group and build off of each other’s insights and checks.
“But consensus does not mean that everyone gets a seat at the table to present ‘treatments’ that at best, have no medical evidence to support them, and at worst, are shown by medical evidence to be actively harmful,” the letter continued. “Evidence-based medicine is the gold standard because evidence-based medicine keeps people alive. And we need our public champions of learning and science to support that view.”
Attempts to reach publicists for “Jeopardy!,” “The Dr. Oz Show” and Harpo Productions were unsuccessful Tuesday.
The letter-writers’ opinions are backed up by a 2014 study conducted by physicians, pharmacists and other researchers that showed only about a third of the claims Oz made on “The Dr. Oz Show” and “The Doctors” during a 2013 research period were supported even slightly by medical evidence.
In 2015, a number of his colleagues at Columbia University petitioned to have the cardiac surgeon removed from his faculty position.
“I bring the public information that will help them on their path to be their best selves,” Oz told E! News in response at the time. “We provide multiple points of view, including mine which is offered without conflict of interest. That doesn’t sit well with certain agendas which distort the facts.”
Oz is currently director of Columbia University’s Integrative Medicine Center.
The doctor, who says in a promotional video on Twitter that he was friends with legendary host Alex Trebek, debuted Monday night as a “Jeopardy!” guest host and is scheduled to continue in the role for two weeks.
Since Trebek’s death from pancreatic cancer in late 2020, the show has featured guest hosts including journalist Katie Couric, all-time champion Ken Jennings and executive producer Mike Richards. Upcoming hosts include quarterback Aaron Rodgers, CNN broadcaster Anderson Cooper, CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker, “Today” host Savannah Guthrie and “Big Bang Theory” actress Mayim Bialik.