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TV's Dr. Oz enters Pennsylvania's crucial Senate race on the GOP side

Dr. Mehmet Oz, a celebrity heart surgeon who has also promoted questionable health advice to national television audiences, has entered the closely watched Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race.

Oz, a longtime resident of New Jersey, is running as a Republican in a bid to represent the Keystone State. The open contest will likely play a large role in which party controls the Senate in the next political term.

"We are angry at our government and at each other," Oz said in a statement Tuesday in the right-leaning Washington Examiner announcing his candidacy.

"We have not managed our crises as effectively as past generations," he wrote. "During the pandemic, I learned that when you mix politics and medicine, you get politics instead of solutions. That's why I am running for the U.S. Senate: to help fix the problems and to help us heal."

The Pennsylvania race will likely be among the most consequential in the coming election, and Oz brings with him a medical background at a time when the American public is grappling simultaneously with a deadly pandemic and a devastating misinformation crisis that threatens public health and the nation's democracy.

In announcing his bid for the Senate, Oz boasted of his background as both the child of immigrants and as a medical professional.

"Over 750,000 in the United States have died from the virus, a devastating toll for families and communities," he wrote in his statement. "Many of those deaths were preventable. COVID-19 became an excuse for the government and elite thinkers who controlled the means of communication to suspend debate. Dissenting opinions from leading scholars were ridiculed and canceled so their ideas could not be disseminated.

"Instead, the government mandated policies that caused unnecessary suffering. The public was patronized and misled instead of empowered."

Oz has promoted hydroxychloroquine as a COVID treatment. The Food and Drug Administration has cautioned against the personal use of the drug for COVID.

Oz has previously been criticized for other health recommendations, and has testified at a Senate hearing on deceptive advertising for diet supplements.

His entrance into the GOP Senate contest follows Sean Parnell's suspension last week of his candidacy. Parnell had the endorsement of former President Donald Trump.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alana Wise
Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.