For Entertainment Purposes Only: ‘The Political Life of Dr. Oz’

Yes, Nuzzi is problematic (and she seems to have terrible taste in men), but it’s always fun to watch an assassin stalk a member of the enemy party:

I decided to try reaching the Ozes directly, since my efforts to contact the candidate via what you might call the formal process were not working. There was no answer at a number listed for their home in New Jersey. And no answer at the 212 number listed for Dr. Oz himself. Then I tried Lisa Oz, the self-help author and self-described certified Reiki expert who has been married to the candidate for 36 years. To my surprise, she picked up — for about a second. Just as quickly as it started, the call was over. I had barely said hello. Unsure if we’d been disconnected or she’d hung up on me, I tried her back. The tone of her voice suggested it had definitely been the latter.

“How did you get my number?” she asked sharply. I told her that her number was listed in public records, and this annoyed her too. “Oh,” she said, “I should have gotten rid of that.” I was about to explain that public records don’t work that way, but she cut in. “Have a nice day,” she said, but it sounded like a cross between the way women of the South say “Bless your heart” and men of Brooklyn call some asshole “pal” after being cut off in traffic. Then she hung up.

Or she thought she did.

“It’s Olivia from The New Yorker, the woman who talked to Michelle,” she said…

Another voice answered. It was Dr. Oz.

“Michelle should never have spoken to her,” he said. “That’s who’s down at the office now.”

Dr. and Mrs. Oz did not or could not hear me, and they did not realize that, rather than end the phone call, Lisa Oz had mistakenly connected her device to what sounded like the sound system of a vehicle, meaning that as they engaged in paranoid conversation and argument for more than four minutes, I remained on the line, hearing every word of it…

“That’s what Casey — ” Mrs. Oz began to say, referring to the campaign manager. “When Michelle told me she spoke to her — ” she continued, referring to Michelle Bouchard, a longtime friend of the couple whom I had interviewed a few days earlier. We’d hit it off during a long conversation that I found helpful for understanding Dr. and Mrs. Oz, and she had volunteered to forward my request to the couple and encourage them to speak with me too. Then she clammed up. If she was going to talk with me again, she said, she would have to get approval from the Ozes before doing so. Another friend of the couple, who spoke to me on the condition of anonymity, said that Lisa Oz was not happy to hear that associates were freely commenting about her husband to a reporter and that she had been calling around, complaining that “some fucking girl” was “doing a hit piece” and that the policy going forward should be “Don’t fucking talk to her.” It was only day two of my assignment, when my questions were devastating suggestions of character assassination like “What is Dr. Oz like?” and “What do you think of his decision to run for office?”…

Doors slammed. Dr. and Mrs. Oz seemed to exit the car and enter a space where they greeted others with whom they engaged for a few seconds in animated conversation about what sounded like a million random things at once, from Mrs. Oz bringing someone something to eat to, out of nowhere, the subject of NFTs. The call ended.

I stared at my phone, upset by what I had heard and not sure what to do. Before I could figure it out, the phone rang. It was Lisa Oz. I picked it up and said hello. She paused, then she hung up on me. This time she was successful…

NB: Nuzzi also did a memorable story about Giuliani accidentally butt-dialing her — and a bunch of others. And she got her big break with the first story about Anthony Weiner’s insalubrious phone habits. Fortune, or at least modern communication technology, favors the young.

… “He’s one of those public figures who really haunt me,” Frank Bruni of the New York Times said. Bruni met Dr. Oz when he wrote about him in 2010 for The New York Times Magazine. Bruni spent weeks observing his subject, work that required him to experience for himself the incongruity of Dr. Oz’s dual existence. One day, he was in an operating room, peering into the open chest cavity of a patient as Dr. Oz stitched around her heart. The next, he was hanging out at a studio as Dr. Oz and his producers discussed a plan to create prop body parts to hand out to the audience at a taping of The Dr. Oz Show.

During the process, Bruni said, “two things came into equally vivid relief: This is a man who is or was a serious doctor. Seriously trained. Seriously talented. Gifted. And with a record of performance in which he contributed an enormous amount to humanity. But at the same time, I’m sitting in on these story meetings where they’re talking about ‘Does cotton or Silly Putty or something else better stand in for testicles?’ I mean, how do you go from A to B? Why does he seem more excited about the fake testicles than the open-heart surgery? The answer is because the latter was the route to fame and riches — and that’s the Faustian bargain.” That observation was not just some convenient mythic device, Bruni said, but his honest conclusion about a subject he’d thought hard about for more than a decade. “I’ve met and profiled very few if any people who so embody the wages of ambition.” In this allegory, the Devil gave the doctor wealth and fame in exchange for his reputation…

When Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican, announced in October 2020 that he would not seek reelection, he created a new opportunity for political drama and uncertainty in the commonwealth that Trump won in 2016 by less than one percentage point and that Joe Biden won back by fractionally more in 2020. In the macho, self-assured terminology of election punditry, Pennsylvania is a battleground where the rare excitement of a toss-up is the result of a decades of gerrymandering and deliberate negative partisanship urging the population’s small number of voters into polarized and predictable enemy camps. With most races in the 2022 midterms on the edge of meaninglessness, Pennsylvania’s upcoming Senate contest is the closest thing to this cycle’s main event. And so before Dr. Oz can woo into voters the suburban women who have made up his fan base for 20 years in November’s general election, he will have to prove to the cliquish and squeamish grassroots gatekeepers and machine kingmakers of the Pennsylvania Republican Party that he can be trusted not to fuck up their plans to win the majority. Or at least trusted more than his competition.

Getting the nomination of either party for a race this high profile is bound to be a fraught endeavor, and nobody is likely to emerge with both their dignity and their sanity intact…

He’d always thought he would run for office. In recent years, his angling in that direction had become more and more obvious. He’d even done Trump the favor of welcoming him onto The Dr. Oz Show in 2016 to discuss the results of a physical exam that claimed he had clocked in at an improbable-seeming weight placing him just outside the body mass index’s categorization for obesity. “We were watching during the taping, and everyone was like, ‘Wait, is anyone going to challenge him?’ ” the former producer said. “A lot of people were really upset. People were saying, ‘Oh God. Oz likes him.’ ”…

You’re telling me there’s no room in the modern Republican Party for a celebrity with a long public record of expressing opinions at odds with the values of the conservative base? That being friends with famous Democrats is a nonstarter in a Republican primary? Since when are Republican candidates not allowed to change their positions on abortion or just about anything else, for that matter? The answer for Oz-skeptical Trumpists, it seems, is that Dr. Oz just isn’t the guy, so he doesn’t get to play by the non-rules. Sorry, but nobody said politics was fair. “Dr. Oz is nowhere near as national a celebrity as Donald Trump was,” the former Trump adviser continued. “Donald Trump was larger than life. Dr. Oz sells diet pills on daytime TV. Oz and his team are making a major miscalculation if they think they can run him like he’s Donald Trump.”

Still, laughing off the TV doc feels a bit like laughing off the TV dealmaker, and if The Apprentice created a fantasy persona for its star that appealed mostly to young men who wanted to be rich, The Dr. Oz Show and its Oprah-endorsed star are best understood as wellness fantasy for women. As we navigate the future of American politics after Trump, we have to know: Did he change everything? Or did everything change for him?…

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