Last week, Capitol Hill Senators grilled the host for some of the weight loss products he has promoted on his talk show. Members of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance particularly took issue with his support of green coffee bean extract as a weight loss product, even though there is little scientific evidence of these pills’ effectiveness. One study even found that the beans caused diabetes symptoms in mice.
“The scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products you called ‘miracles,’” said Subcommittee chair Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri). I don’t get why you need to say this stuff when you know it’s not true. When you have this amazing megaphone, why would you cheapen your show? … With power comes a great deal of responsibility.”
On Sunday, it was John Oliver’s turn to roast Dr. Oz over this apparent coffee beans scam. First, he showed footage from the doctor’s Capitol Hill testimony, where Oz relented that there was no such thing as a “magic” weight loss pill. Of course, Oliver and his editors then queued up plenty of clips showing Oz touting such “magic” supplements.
“Name me one case where a man named Oz claimed mystical powers and led people oddly astray,” John Oliver deadpanned, in an obvious reference to the manipulative title character in Wizard of Oz.
And that was just the first pop culture reference in John Oliver’s takedown of Dr. Oz. He later equated Oz’s sensational coffee extract claims to the magical beans in “Jack And The Beanstalk.”
“You are presenting it [dietary supplements] as a doctor,” John Oliver continued. “If you want to keep spouting this bulls–t, that’s fine. But don’t call your show Dr. Oz, call it Check This S–t Out With Some Guy Named Mehmet.”
But Dr. Oz was not the only target of John Oliver’s barbs. The Last Week Tonight segment also criticized the dietary supplement industry in general, which has become highly deregulated. As Oliver noted, the Food and Drug Administration only has the authority to investigate the health claims of supplements if they cause people to become sick. When Congress tried to increase the FDA’s authority in the early 1990s, the supplement industry sent out PSAs and gave money to lawmakers urging support for de-regulation.
“The supplement industry will claim that it is one of the more highly-regulated industries,” John Oliver said. “See how true you think that is. Because if you are a supplement company today, you do not need approval from the FDA before a product is marketed, you can make health claims without prior approval from the government, and you don’t have to prove the safety or effectiveness of your product before putting it up for sale.”
John Oliver concluded his takedown of Dr. Oz by noting that the host had to make some questionable claims in order to fill out all the episodes of his daily talk show. So Oliver came up with some other, better ways Dr. Oz could “pander” to the public without making false medical statements. And naturally, since Last Week Tonight airs on HBO, these examples included a Skype session with Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin, (who revealed that he “just killed three of your favorite characters”) and live tap-dancing from Boardwalk Empire star Steve Buscemi.
Watch John Oliver and Last Week Tonight skewer Dr. Oz and the supplement industry below.