HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Mehmet Oz, the celebrity heart surgeon who recently ended his daytime TV “Dr. Oz Show” to run for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, got a star Friday on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — just as he was being attacked 2,000 miles away in a rival's TV ad saying he's too “Hollywood.”
The star underscores how successful Oz was before he gave up his TV show to run for public office in one of the nation’s premier Senate contests.
That same career, however, is being used against him by rivals who are picking apart his TV shows and his past as a self-styled wellness and anti-obesity advocate to fuel doubt about his conservative credentials as a Republican.
Oz was introduced at the ceremony by TV personality Maria Menounos and actor Dean Cain, and gave a seven-minute speech that echoes his campaign trail characterization of him as a crusader to empower his viewers with medical information to challenge the medical establishment.
“Doctors weren't always happy when I would have patients educated from my show walk in with lots of extra questions asking about alternative approaches, things that just weren’t part of the traditional medical upbringing,” Oz said.
He said he used a "bold, brave voice" on his TV show — although critics said he often promoted questionable products and medical advice — to also take on "Big Pharma," chemical companies, “Big Tech” and the federal government.
He also gave a shoutout to Republican icons — former Presidents Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan — who also have stars on the Walk of Fame.
Then, in photos that may show up on TV screens in Pennsylvania, Oz knelt down to pose with the star and kiss it.
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce lauds Oz as having won 10 Daytime Emmy Awards and authoring New York Times bestsellers on wellness. The show launched in 2009, after Oz rocketed to fame as a regular guest on Oprah Winfrey's show. It aired its last episode Jan. 14, barely seven weeks after Oz announced his candidacy.
The chamber of commerce retains a $50,000 sponsorship fee for celebrities who are nominated and selected for a star, though that price is subject to change. The Walk of Fame website says the money is used to create and install the star, as well as maintain the Walk of Fame.
Oz was a longtime resident of Cliffside Park, New Jersey, before running for Senate in Pennsylvania, saying he is now renting a home owned by his in-laws in the suburban Philadelphia town of Bryn Athyn.
As rivals try to raise doubts about his true political leanings, they are pointing to his show's 2019 episode on “red flag laws” opposed by gun-rights advocates and his advocacy of former President Barack Obama's health care law, known as “Obamacare,” or the Affordable Care Act.
Red flag laws generally allow authorities to disarm people who are believed to be a danger to themselves or others. On the show, Oz suggested that he might support the idea of such laws, saying that the matter of a caller “being anonymous is, for me, vital.”
In 2010, Oz appeared in an ad sponsored by the California Endowment touting the health care law, calling it a “historic opportunity” to “make health care better for millions of Californians, to make health care better and more affordable for you.”
At another point, in 2016, he was quoted as calling Obamacare a “very brave effort to include more Americans in the health care system,” but one whose effectiveness was blunted by political compromises.
A TV ad being aired statewide by a Republican primary rival's super PAC warns “Oz might be right for Hollywood, but he’s wrong for Pennsylvania.” Another calls him a “Hollywood liberal.”
The super PAC supports former hedge fund CEO David McCormick, who along with Oz is one of three wealthy and well-connected transplants from other states running for the swing-state seat being vacated by two-term Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
In a statement, Oz's campaign did not address criticism of him being too “Hollywood” for Pennsylvania. Instead, it repeated the theme of his campaign that he is a free-thinking health expert who helps people.
Then it echoed its attacks on McCormick that it is airing on TV, attempting to paint McCormick as soft on China because of his former hedge fund’s portfolio that catered to Chinese investors investing in China.
McCormick's campaign shot back Friday by saying McCormick — a Bronze Star-winning Army Ranger veteran of the Gulf War — “has always put America First" while "Oz spent his life putting Fame and Hollywood First.”
Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/timelywriter.