Dr. Oz Scolded by Senators for 'Miracle' Weight Loss Claims
Television's popular physician Dr. Mehmet Oz was harshly criticized by a skeptical Senate panel today over his claims that certain weight loss products can be "miracles" and "lightning in a bottle," forcing Oz to defend himself as a "cheerleader" for people trying to lose weight.
Oz appeared before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee that was looking into a "crisis in consumer protection," and he quickly became a target.
Some of the claims Oz has made on his television show - and the products he has touted - have come under scrutiny before and today committee chairwoman Sen. Claire McCaskill asked Oz, "Why when you have this amazing megaphone and this amazing ability to communicate, why would you cheapen your show by saying things like that?"
Oz has called products like green coffee bean extract, a substance derived from coffee and sold as a weight-loss drug, "miracles in a bottle" and today he defended that use comparing it to changes in the medical field and even the use of prayer.
"When you call a product a miracle and it's something you can buy and it's something that gives people false hope, I just don't know why you need to go there," she said. "Why would you say something is a miracle in a bottle?"
"We can spend a lot of time, Senator McCaskill, arguing the merits of whether green coffee bean extract is worth trying or not worth trying," Oz said. "Many of the things we argue that you do with regard to your diet are likewise criticizable… It is remarkably complex, as you know, to figure out what works for most people even in a dietary program."
Oz, who stars in the ABC television program NY Med, noted he has also been criticized for saying prayer can help sick patients.
"You don't have to buy prayer," snapped McCaskill, D-Mo., who has taken to social media to tout her own personal weight loss victories thanks to diet and exercise.
Oz defended statements on his show saying he does not doubt the benefits.
"I actually do personally believe in the items I talk about in the show. I passionately study them. I recognize that often times they don't have the scientific muster to present as fact. But, nevertheless, I give my audience the advice I give my family all the time. I give my family these products, specifically the ones you mentioned. I'm comfortable with that part," he said.
Some companies have used Oz's likeness when promoting their products, something Oz said he has never agreed to. He also said that he never appears in commercials for products and doesn't tell his viewers to explicitly buy certain products.
"I use language that is very passionate… and it provided fodder for the unscrupulous advertisers," Oz said.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also took on Oz saying, "It's a major problem when people are spending more and more money and they're gaining more and more weight."
"Either you don't talk about these things at all, or you're going to have to be more specific, because right now, this is not working," the senator said.
McCaskill told Oz she was "surprised" that he was "defending" some of his claims. In a passionate moment the former county prosecutor even slightly misspoke and said she has done "a lot of research in preparation for this trial," adding the "scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products that you call miracles."
Oz again defended himself describing his "job" on his program "The Dr. Oz Show" as a "cheerleader for the audience," noting with products like green coffee bean extract you need to still eat healthy and exercise. "You can't spread it on kielbasa and expect it to work," he said.
In an interview with ABC News following the committee hearing, Oz blamed himself for his "flowery" language, but also "fraudsters" who used his words to prey on people trying to lose weight.
"What's come to my attention is that there's actually an inherent use of content from my show by these fraudsters, so in fact unwittingly I've been helping them by using flowery language," he said.
When his words are "taken out of context, it's used as a weapon against the people who trust me," Oz said.
He said he is "definitely going to be more careful" to avoid having his words appear in unsanctioned ads.
McCaskill promised she didn't call the hearing to "beat up" on Oz, but instead because of a "crisis in consumer protection" and Oz said he came because he wants to "be part of the solution not part of the problem."
"I've heard the message and I get it," he said.
ABC News' David Kerley, Scott Wilson and Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.