Meet an anti-LGBTQ Senate candidate: Mehmet Oz

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Now the Republican Senate nominee in Pennsylvania, Mehmet Oz has shifted far to the right on LGBTQ issues as he runs for office.

After a razor-thin victory in the May 17 primary and a lengthy recount, television personality-turned-Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz officially became his party's nominee after opponent Dave McCormick conceded the race on June 3.

Though he once espoused political positions supported by the majority of Americans on issues like abortion rights, climate action, and LGBTQ equality, as a candidate Oz has flip-flopped and veered to the far right.

Oz has long dispensed evidence-free and disproven medical advice on his syndicated "Doctor Oz Show." After changing his residency from New Jersey to Pennsylvania to run for office, he secured the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, who deemed him qualified to be a U.S. senator because of his fame. "You know when you're in television for 18 years, that's like a poll. That means people like you," Trump argued.

Framing his candidacy as a chance to "confront those who want to change the very soul of America and reimagine it with their toxic ideology," Oz ditched his pro-choice, pro-LGBTQ, and pro-climate action positions to positions seemingly intended to appeal to the right-wing GOP base. Many on the right were unconvinced by his flip-flops, and Oz was roundly booed at his own May 6 campaign rally with Trump in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

He barely won the GOP nomination, with less than 32% of the vote and by a margin of 951 votes, to the general election for the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

The Democratic nominee in the race, current Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, is a staunch ally to the LGBTQ community. As mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, Fetterman defied the state's ban on same-sex marriages in 2013, before it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges two years later. As lieutenant governor, he defied the Republican-controlled Legislature by flying Pride flags outside his office. His campaign issues page includes a video highlighting his belief that "The LGBTQIA community deserves the same rights and protections that the rest of us enjoy in this country."

Oz has no section on LGBTQ issues on his own site, which includes only vague language about American families being "hollowed out by failed policies, narrow thinking, and toxic culture wars," and a campaign spokesperson did not respond to an inquiry for this story.

While he once took relatively pro-LGBTQ positions, Oz has now done a 180-degree turnaround as a candidate and is now an opponent of equality.

Abandoning transgender kids

In the past, Oz used his television show and his fame to advocate for LGBTQ kids. He tweeted on Spirit Day in 2010, "I'm wearing purple to support LGBT youth. Stop the bullying." That year, he hosted transgender kids and their families on his program for what the pro-equality group GLAAD called "some of the best nationally televised conversations about gender identity."

In 2015, he hosted transgender trailblazer Jazz Jennings, then a teenager, on his show and praised her mother, saying, "I love the support you've given your daughter. It's wonderful. And you can see the beautiful young woman she's becoming because of it."

In the Senate primary, his GOP opponents used those episodes to attack Oz. Oz himself now goes out of his way to attack transgender kids.

An ad posted by Oz's campaign included the message "Men shouldn't play women's sports," suggesting that transgender student athletes be barred from participating with kids of their gender identity.

During an April GOP primary debate, he made the same argument, asserting, "Biologic men should not be playing women's sports."

A spokesperson for his campaign told Fox News in March that Oz "has treated transgender people with dignity and he's covered the high suicide rates with transgender people, and takes it very seriously." She also said that Oz "is a conservative who doesn't believe biological men should play women's sports, and he's running a TV ad presently to that effect."

Praising transphobia as 'very brave'

The spokesperson also noted that Oz stood behind writer J.K. Rowling's transphobic statements about gender identity, telling the network, "In fact, Doctor Oz has repeatedly praised JK Rowling's brave stance for stating the truth about this important issue."

Rowling, the author of the "Harry Potter" book series, has repeatedly argued that transgender women are not really women and transgender youth should not be provided with gender-related medical treatment. "If sex isn't real, there's no same-sex attraction. If sex isn't real, the lived reality of women globally is erased," she tweeted in 2020.

LGBTQ rights organizations and the stars of the "Harry Potter" movie series have publicly challenged her harmful comments.

According to the gossip website Radar Online, at a private event in December 2021 Oz said: "J.K. Rowling, who's not some icon of the Conservative Party, said something that I think was very brave. She was a lifelong feminist, and then she's canceled. And I've talked to people who are canceling her, who would've been making a lot of money off her, and they can't defend what they're doing, or they don't wanna be in trouble."

Backing 'Don't Say Gay' legislation

On April 6, Oz appeared on a podcast hosted by right-wing personality John Fredericks and endorsed the Florida law, dubbed "Don't Say Gay" by opponents, that prohibits elementary schools from acknowledging to younger students that LGBTQ people and families exist.

"Let the parents play a role. Schools should not be involved in this and there should be no education around these issues," he said. "I think [Republican Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis is absolutely right in Florida, there are other states doing the same now. Teachers should not be teaching complicated issues around sexuality. I personally don't think they should teach it at all 'til the parents get involved, but certainly not in the first three years of school."

Asked by Fredericks about "transgenderism being taught in schools," Oz cited debunked claims that large numbers of transgender children will grow out of that identity. "Eighty-five percent of kids who say they're transgender — that 9-year-old kid you mentioned — will go back to their biologic gender if we don't get in the way ...  Transgenderism is a condition which 85% of the time is not a problem and goes back to where you were supposed to be," Oz said.

He slammed the Disney Company as "cowards" and "disingenuous" for speaking up for LGBTQ rights and against DeSantis' law and blasted the "woke liberal media" for using the phrase "'Don't Say Gay' bill."

Giving credence to ex-gay conversion therapists

In November 2012, Oz was condemned by LGBTQ rights organizations for an episode of his program that presented a representative of an ex-gay conversion therapy group as an "expert." The segment featured Julie Hamilton of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality falsely claiming — without any challenge — that harmful and debunked so-called "reparative therapy" could change people's sexual orientation.

"By presenting former NARTH President Julie Hamilton as an 'expert' on this topic, Dr. Oz chose to ignore what the actual experts say, and wrongfully presented this topic to his audience as an ongoing debate, rather than as the settled matter that it is within his own medical community," the LGBTQ rights organizations GLAAD, GLSEN, and PFLAG National said in a joint statement.

"The Dr. Oz Show provided a platform to a fringe organization promoting dangerous and harmful practices that every major health, mental health and education organization has consistently repudiated as harmful to youth," said then-GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard.

In a since-deleted blog post, Oz defended the decision to "present multiple perspectives," but acknowledged the overwhelming evidence that reparative therapy is dangerous and ineffective. "After listening to both sides of the issue and after reviewing the available medical data, I agree with the established medical consensus. I have not found enough published data supporting positive results with gay reparative therapy, and I have concerns about the potentially dangerous effects when the therapy fails, especially when minors are forced into treatments," he wrote.

Oz's campaign website gives no indication of whether he still agrees that "reparative therapy" is not supported by science or medicine.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.