As pundits obsess about Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia, Donald Trump is preparing to make his own health news — by releasing the results of his most recent physical.
His platform: “The Dr. Oz Show.”
A teaser for the Thursday episode says that Trump will discuss his “personal health regimen” with host Dr. Mehmet Oz. And Fox News reported Monday that Trump will also share tidbits from his physical. (The candidate told CNBC that the exam yielded “very good statistics,” but gave no details.)
So, how much information will Trump actually disclose? And if the GOP candidate sticks to vague platitudes — like his doctor’s pronouncement that he “would be the healthiest individual elected to the presidency” — will Oz call him on it?
That last is very much an open question.
Oz has stellar medical credentials. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania medical school and has been a professor in Columbia University’s department of surgery since 2001. There, colleagues have said they consider him to be a skilled cardiothoracic surgeon.
“If you did a poll of the staff at Columbia and asked them, ‘If you needed a heart operation and Mehmet was there, would you want him?’ they’d say yes,” Dr. Richard Green, the associate chief of cardiac surgery at the hospital, told Vox last year.
But many of his peers dismiss him as a sham because he’s not exactly been a stickler for scientific evidence on his show.
“Oz is widely regarded in the medical community — including by his own colleagues at Columbia — as a fraud, charlatan, and huckster, interested only in what benefits him financially. I cannot imagine why a presidential candidate would appear with a quack like Oz,” Dr. Henry I. Miller, a fellow in scientific philosophy and public policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said in an email.
Criticism of Oz exploded after he used his show to promote a product called Green Coffee Bean Extract as a weight-loss “miracle.” The product was peddled by supplement marketer and frequent “Dr. Oz Show” guest Lindsey Duncan, who had a financial stake in the companies making the extract. Duncan claimed the pills could help consumers slash body fat by 16 percent in just 12 weeks. Exercise? Not necessary.
Duncan assured viewers there was scientific evidence to back up those claims, but it soon became clear there wasn’t. The study that Duncan used as evidence was retracted. An investigation by the Federal Trade Commission ensued, and ultimately, Duncan agreed to pay $9 million to settle with consumers who’d purchased the product.
The Senate then brought in Oz for a hearing on consumer protections in June 2014.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) told Oz she was concerned that he was “melding medical advice, news, and entertainment in a way that harms consumers.” She and others grilled him about the Green Coffee Bean Extract and other weight-loss products he’d promoted without evidence.
“I don’t get why you need to say this stuff when you know it’s not true,” McCaskill told Oz. “The scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products you called ‘miracles.'”
Some of Oz’s peers in the medical community have grown fed up with him, too. In April 2015, a group of doctors sent a scathing letter to the dean of Columbia’s medical school saying it was “unacceptable” for Oz to maintain his faculty appointment.
The doctors didn’t mince words: “He has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.”
Columbia responded that faculty members had were free to express themselves in the public sphere, whether by touting green coffee beans or giving a thumbs-up to fat-flushing detox waters.
Still, Oz said he took the criticisms seriously. He went on a “listening tour” last summer to hear from fellow doctors about how he might better use his influence.
So it’s possible he’ll grill Trump about about his health regimen (which includes abstinence from tobacco and alcohol — and also a well-documented love of greasy fast food). And it’s possible he’ll ask probing questions about the candidate’s recent physical exam.
Or he may stick with glossy generalities — or, perhaps, take a page from late night comedy, where the true test of a candidate’s health is opening a pickle jar.