BY JANIE ROSMAN
It was difficult to miss the light blue bus that occupied half a block, startling the calm, unhurried Nyack morning. “We love you, Dr. Oz!” shouted the throng gathered at the clock on the corner of Main and Cedar Streets.
Dr. Mehmet Oz and his entourage were filming episodes of his show called “Bring Back Your Health.” A ponytailed woman (his handler) in jeans, tee shirt and a baseball cap directed the crowd.
“When Dr. Oz comes out of the bus, hold up your signs and cheer,” she said, then instructed the driver to take the parked bus around the corner so the cameras could film his arrival. Her additional orders were, “No media questions. This is for an upcoming show. No media questions.”
However, retakes — Season Six of “The Dr. Oz Show” starts September 8 — were mandated. One pregnant woman was asked to repeat “I want to bring back my health to . . .” several times to get it right for the cameras and microphones.
No one seemed to know, or care, about the medical controversy surrounding his name. They asked questions about symptoms and health issues.
Doris Goldberg of White Plains walked with Oz to her family’s bakery, Flour Buds Gluten Free Bakery, which became a staged scene with three patrons. It was going well until Oz grimaced when the cup touched his lips. One cameraman shook his head, indicating a retake was necessary. “He doesn’t drink coffee,” someone holding a clipboard of release waivers told me.
Filming ended. The handler couldn’t be in two places at the same time, and Oz was walking toward the door. No cameras in sight.
“Hi, Dr. Oz,” I said. “Some in the medical industry complain that you’re too influential, and patients won’t follow their doctor’s advice if it’s different from yours. What’s your response to these complaints?”
Oz leaned in to answer. “Challenge them (the person’s doctor and me) both.” Gesturing from left to right with an index finger, he added, “The truth lies somewhere in the middle.” The handler came over as I started to ask a follow up question and ushered him to the Nyack Farmers Market.
Two months earlier, the U.S. Senate grilled Oz over his weight-loss products.
“I can’t figure this out, Dr. Oz,” Consumer Protection subcommittee chair Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) said during the June hearings. “I get that you do a lot of good on your show. I understand that you give a lot of information, great information about health, and you do it in a way that’s easily understandable.”
She cited statements he made on his shows about green coffee extract, raspberry ketones, and garcinia cambogi. “I don’t get why you need to say this stuff because you know it’s not true.”
“I actually do personally believe in the items that I talk about on the show,” Oz replied. “I passionately study them, I recognize they oftentimes don’t have the scientific muster to present as fact, but nevertheless I would give my audience the advice I give my family all the time, and I’ve given my family these products.”
Oz said his job on the show is to be a cheerleader for the audience and to give people hope. “I want to look everywhere, including alternative healing traditions, for any evidence that might be supportive to them,” he said.
Benjamin Mazer (third-year medical student at the University of Rochester) wrote policy last year for the Medical Society of the State of New York [where he is licensed] and the American Medical Association asking them to more actively address medical quackery on TV and in the media—specifically Dr. Oz.
While the AMA did not censure Oz, the MSSNY is said to have passed Mazer’s policy proposal in revised form. Exact revisions were not disclosed.