Oprah Winfrey endorsed Democrat John Fetterman in the Pennsylvania Senate race over his opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz, whose television career she helped launch.
“I said it was up to the citizens of Pennsylvania … but I will tell you all this, if I lived in Pennsylvania, I would have already cast my vote for John Fetterman for many reasons,” Winfrey said Thursday evening during an online discussion on voting that she hosted.
The billionaire media mogul was responsible for helping launch the career of Oz after repeatedly featuring him on her popular talk show as “America’s doctor” before helping him launch his own show.
“This is a show I believe in,” Winfrey said in 2009, announcing the creation of “The Dr. Oz Show.” “Judging by the response from our viewers, Dr. Oz has already demonstrated he is a valued and trusted medical expert who has created a deep connection with our audience.”
Winfrey had initially avoided taking a stance on the race when Oz entered the Republican primary last year.
“One of the great things about our democracy is that every citizen can decide to run for public office,” Winfrey said in a December 2021 statement to New York Magazine. “Mehmet Oz has made that decision. And now it’s up to the residents of Pennsylvania to decide who will represent them.”
A cardiothoracic surgeon, Oz has been criticized for promoting questionable products and theories on his show, including being grilled by a Senate panel over his promotion of diet pills. At an event late last year, Oz said he asked Winfrey to stay out of the race.
“I asked her to stay out,” Oz said at a December event, according to an audio recording obtained by the New York Post. “Don’t support me because if you get involved in any way, you’ll get hurt and I don’t want my friends hurt.”
While Fetterman, the state’s lieutenant governor, has consistently led Oz in polling since the matchup was set in June, the Republican has narrowed the gap well within the margin of error in recent weeks. Fetterman’s lead has slid under a barrage of ads questioning his stance on criminal justice reform and questions about his health as he recovers from a stroke he suffered in May.
Seen as the Democrats’ best chance at flipping a Republican-held seat — GOP incumbent Pat Toomey is retiring at the end of his term — the Keystone State is drawing in three former presidents for the race’s final weekend.
On Saturday, Fetterman is set to rally with President Biden and former President Barack Obama, while Oz will be joined by former President Donald Trump and controversial Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, who has lagged well behind Oz in polling in his race against Democratic opponent Josh Shapiro.
Fetterman quickly released a statement acknowledging Oprah’s endorsement, saying, “It is an honor and privilege to have Oprah’s support in this race. She is a leader on so many issues — fighting for our democracy, passing common-sense gun reform, and ensuring racial justice. I’m grateful for Oprah’s support and trust on the issues that matter to people across the country and Pennsylvania as we close out this campaign.”
Winfrey added a number of other Democratic Senate candidates she said she would vote for if she lived in their states: Cheri Beasley in North Carolina, Rep. Val Demings in Florida, Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin and incumbent Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Raphael Warnock in Nevada and Georgia, respectively. She also noted her support in two governor’s races, backing Beto O’Rourke in Texas and Stacey Abrams in Georgia.
Cover thumbnail photo: Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images