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 Dr. Mehmet Oz joins the list of celebrities dabbling in politics.Photo: Getty Images
Renowned Dr. Mehmet Oz joined the list of celebrities dabbling in politics. He announced his candidacy for Senate in Pennsylvania, and has fame on his side. Photo: Getty Images

Celebrities that go from the screen to politics

Dr. Oz is the latest celebrity to make the leap into politics. Who did it before him?

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May 17th, 2022

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Dr. Mehmet Oz, the TV celebrity who became the family doctor of many American families for more than a decade, recently announced his candidacy for the Senate representing Pennsylvania. 

The new career change for Dr. Oz, who was a renowned cardiovascular surgeon until he rose to fame alongside Oprah Winfrey in 2003, is not surprising, and the list of celebrities turning to politics is long.

American politics is already used to welcoming celebrities into its ranks, either to support political campaigns or make a career change. 

This marriage began in the 60s, when the Kennedys were melting everyone with their charm, rubbing shoulders with the jet-set and Marilyn Monroe sang the suggestive "Happy Birthday Mr. President" to JFK during a fundraising gala. In 1966, Ronald Reagan, a star of 1940s Hollywood westerns, became governor of California repping the Republican Party, and then served two terms as president in the 1980s.

The latest presidential campaigns are also an example of the weight carried by Democratic celebrities.

During the candidacy of Barack Obama and the entire 'Yes we can' media movement, the influence of celebrities was decisive. Support for Hillary Clinton from celebrities with anti-Trump speeches and in favor of having a woman president went deep, even if she didn’t win. She also lost to a celebrity that year. Donald Trump was most known for his reality TV show The Apprentice, which did numbers on prime time television before he successfully ran for the White House.

Political celebrities

Unlike other candidates, Dr. Oz can benefit from fame. Millions of Americans know who he is, and his show was one of the most successful on the talk show fringe for more than 10 years. It was also controversial. 

Some episodes, like one where he said that apple juice had dangerous amounts of arsenic, or invited pseudo-scientists, such as mediums or astrologers to talk about health matters, are well remembered. 

But perhaps his biggest controversy has been with the coronavirus. In April last year, Oz claimed on Fox News that reopening schools may only cost us 2-3% in terms of total mortality. 

“And you know, any life is a life lost, but to get every child back into a school where they're safely being educated and being fed and making the most out of their lives with a theoretical risk on the backside, it might be a tradeoff some folks would consider,” he asserted.

His statements ended in an apology on Twitter hours later.

The very issue of the pandemic drives his campaign. When he made his candidacy official, he said "we have not managed our crises as effectively as past generations."

"During the pandemic, I learned that when politics and medicine mix, you get politics instead of solutions. That is why I am running for the Senate of the United States: to help solve problems and help us heal,” he said in his campaign announcement.

Before Oz lined up as a Republican candidate, many other celebrities had already joined politics for Republicans. The most remembered, not only for his closeness, but for his scandalous passage through the White House, is Trump. 

He took advantage of his media coverage monopoly to make a meteoric run for presidency. 

At first, no one was betting on his candidacy and saw it more as one more eccentricity of the tycoon, the former president was adding support thanks to his controversial statements and that he was seen as a new face in politics, but known among the people.

Another superstar who made the career leap was Arnold Schwarzenegger. The actor not only saved humanity as Terminator and had the title of Mr. Universe, he was also Governor of California for seven years. 

The actor was very clear that his celebrity role made it easier for him to be a politician.

"I realized very early in bodybuilding that you have to be able to sell yourself, your ideas and your position in front of the public," he explained in an interview.

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