Does Dr Oz’s Senate Run Spell the End of His Hit TV Show?

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  • Mehmet Oz
    Mehmet Oz
    Surgeon
  • Donald Trump
    Donald Trump
    45th President of the United States
  • Ronald Reagan
    Ronald Reagan
    40th president of the United States and actor

Does Dr. Mehmet Oz’s bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania spell the end of the “Dr. Oz Show”?

On Tuesday morning, the cardiothoracic surgeon turned daytime-TV host formally announced that he’s entering the Republican primary field to replace the outgoing Sen. Pat Toomey. He becomes the latest TV or movie star to seek public office, following the likes of Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump, Al Franken, Arnold Schwarzenegger and even Cynthia Nixon (who unsuccessfully ran for New York governor).

It is not yet clear what Dr. Oz’s plans are for his syndicated talk show, now in its 13th season — although it may be a hint that he has replaced his show’s website with one for his campaign. “Dr. Oz” is currently renewed through the 2022-23 season, which would take it well into any potential Senate career if Oz were to win next year.

Discussions on how to move forward are currently ongoing between the show’s producers and its broadcast partners, an individual with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap. Fox-owned stations in Philadelphia and New York have already decided to pull “Dr. Oz,” a rep told TheWrap on Tuesday.

Reps for Oz and his production company did not respond for comment, while Sony Pictures Television, which distributes the show, declined to comment.

“Dr. Oz” mostly airs on Fox affiliated stations, including in Pennsylvania’s two most populous cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Were the show to continue while Dr. Oz is running his campaign, those and other Pennsylvania stations that air his show would likely be subject to the FCC’s Equal Time rule. These rules stipulate that when any political candidate is given time on over-the-air broadcast stations, his or her political opponents can request that same amount of time (and usually in the same timeslot).

Essentially, that would mean Oz’s Senate competitors would be allowed to request the same amount of time on those stations. When Trump hosted “Saturday Night Live” during his candidacy in the fall of 2015, NBC was forced to give equal time in key primary states to any of his GOP competitors who requested it. (Four candidates — John Kasich, Mike Huckabee, Jim Gilmore and Lindsey Graham — wound up doing so.)

“When an on-air personality runs for political office, it can trigger equal time even if the program he or she appears on has nothing to do with political issues,” David Oxenford, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who specializes in broadcast and digital media law, told TheWrap. “In the past, when Arnold Schwarzenegger was running for governor of California, his old movies were taken off TV stations in the state (same with Ronald Reagan when he was running for office). Fred Grandy was a Congressman from Iowa who previously was on the ‘Love Boat’ TV show – reruns of that show did not run in his district when he was running for reelection.”

Oz would not be the first TV host to run for public office while he was still on TV. Donald Trump was still the host of NBC’s “The Apprentice” in 2015 when he first announced his presidential candidacy. Though NBC later fired him from the show (the network also cut ties with Trump’s Miss USA pageant), it was not explicitly due to him running for president. NBC severed the relationship with Trump due to his many disparaging statements about Mexican immigrants made during the announcement of his candidacy.

Other Hollywood actors such as Reagan and Schwarzenegger were not acting while they launched their political careers. (Both served as governor of California and Reagan went one step further, serving two terms in the White House.) Schwarzenegger would return to the screen after his term ended, which included taking over for Trump on “The Apprentice.”

Oz, who got his own show after regular appearances on Oprah Winfrey’s daytime show in the ’00s, has been no stranger to controversy during the run of his show. He has frequently been accused by other medical experts of promoting false or at least faulty medical claims, otherwise known as “pseudoscience.” He has also faced criticism for promoting alternative medicine like homeopathy.

During the pandemic, Dr. Oz strongly promoted the use of the antimalaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID and was harshly criticized for stating last year on Fox News that reopening schools might be worth the increased number of deaths it could cause; he eventually apologized for the latter.

Thom Geier contributed to this story.