Mehmet Oz, armed with a pink power shirt, a sleek gray blazer and a full head of hair, is ready for battle.
“This month, we celebrate my 1,000th show,” Oz said, as CNN reported. “I know I’ve irritated some potential allies in our quest to make America healthy. No matter our disagreements, freedom of speech is the most fundamental right we have as Americans. And these 10 doctors are trying to silence that right.”
His vow: “We will not be silenced, we will not give in.”
Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon who holds the surgery department vice chairmanship at Columbia, was the target of a letter sent to the school last week calling his “presence on the faculty of a prestigious medical institution unacceptable.”
“We are surprised and dismayed that Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons would permit Dr. Mehmet Oz to occupy a faculty appointment, let alone a senior administrative position in the Department of Surgery,” their letter read. “As described here and here, as well as in other publications, Dr. Oz has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine, as well as baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops. Worst of all, he has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.”
For now, Oz’s academic career seems secure.
“As I am sure you understand and appreciate, Columbia is committed to the principle of academic freedom and to upholding faculty members’ freedom of expression for statements they make in public discussion,” Columbia University Medical Center spokesman Doug Levy wrote in a response to the physicians.
The New York Times pointed out that some of the doctors who signed the letter are connected with the American Council on Science and Health, a pro-industry advocacy group that has supported genetically modified foods, according to an Oz spokesman. Oz has been a critic of GMO foods.
“I bring the public information that will help them on their path to be their best selves,” he wrote on his Facebook page after the letter was released. “We provide multiple points of view, including mine which is offered without conflict of interest. That doesn’t sit well with certain agendas which distort the facts. For example, I do not claim that GMO foods are dangerous, but believe that they should be labeled like they are in most countries around the world. I will address this on the show next week.”
Indeed, a spokesman for Oz told CNN the theme of the upcoming show will be: “I’m going to keep fighting for your right to know what’s in your food.” But whatever happens, a lot of people will see it — about 2 million people watch each episode of Oz’s show.