More than six hundred former contestants of the long-running daytime game show Jeopardy! have come together to oppose “talking head” Dr. Mehmet Oz’s guest stint as the show’s presenter.
Following the death of beloved host, Alec Trebek, the ABC quiz show tapped celebrity substitutes to temporarily take the reins. Fans were thrilled for Katie Couric, Aaron Rodgers, and champ Ken Jennings took their turn, but when Dr. Oz was selected to emcee the two-week slot from March 22 to April 2, former contestants came together in protest.
In an open letter to Executive Producer Mike Richards posted to Medium on February 24, hundreds of contestants wrote, “we were opposed,” to the choice of Dr. Oz. Though they understand that Jeopardy! is a television show that must achieve high ratings to stay on air, they believe that Dr. Oz “stands in opposition” to the show, which “values facts and knowledge.”
“Throughout his nearly two decades on television, he has used his authority as a doctor to push harmful ideas onto the American public, in stark contrast with his oath to first do no harm,” They wrote. “In fact, his ideas are so dangerous that thousands of his colleagues have petitioned to have him fired from his position at Columbia Medical School.”
Dr. Oz has a reputation for touting pseudoscience on his titular show. The contestants cited his promotion of supplements that have no health benefits, pushing “dangerous” unproven treatments for autism, endorsing gay conversion therapies, and backing hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment.
“Dr. Oz represents what has become a dubious trend in America: the elevation of the credentialed talking head at the expense of academic rigor and consensus,” they said. “Evidence-based medicine is the gold standard because evidence-based medicine keeps people alive. And we need our public champions of learning and science to support that view.”
“In Dr. Oz’s world, everything is a possible answer,” said April 2020 winner Hemant Mehta. “I feel like it’s just a publicity stunt,” added two-time winner Heidi Sanchez. “The whole thing is silly, but then to take Dr. Oz … I felt it was an insult to the memory of Alex Trebek — and to the contestants and the viewers.”
“Jeopardy! is known for being incredibly rigorous; a well-deserved reputation,” the letter concluded. “To then invite Dr. Oz to guest-host is a slap in the face to all involved.”