2016 cannot be parodied because 2016 parodies itself.
On Thursday, for instance, the former reality television star who is now the Republican presidential nominee appeared on the daytime talk show hosted by the quack doctor popularized by Oprah Winfrey in lieu of releasing his actual medical records.
The appearance was initially billed as an event of Jerry Springer-like proportions. With Trump sitting next to him, Dr. Oz would read the results of the mogul’s recent physical so that Trump and the housewives watching at home (a demographic Trump has struggled to appeal to) would learn his condition at the same time.
But that bit of theater would not have granted any real credibility to Trump’s claims of sterling health.
Then something seemed to change.
Instead, the results of his physical were released hours before (according to a source within the campaign, a big reveal was never actually the plan) and Trump would chat about his “general well-being” with the TV doctor.
Dr. Oz began the show by noting that “calls for more transparency have never been louder” for both candidates, before claiming that Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton was also considering appearing on the show. The Clinton campaign did not respond to The Daily Beast when asked if this was true.
He then called the show a conversation about both Trump’s health “and the health of our nation.”
“As a doctor I’m always focused on the person directly in front of me and so I think we should agree that we’re not gonna discuss Secretary Clinton,” Dr. Oz said.
“We want her to get well,” Trump replied.
Trump shook Dr. Oz’s hand and they sat on white chairs in the TV studio. He divulged nothing of importance as the doctor asked him a series of questions about his medical history.
“If a patient of mine had these records I’d be really happy and I’d send them on their way,” Dr. Oz said.
Dr. Oz asked Trump daytime TV softballs, including, when you look in the mirror, how old do you feel? Trump said he feels about 35. He added that he’s friends with Tom Brady and when the two play golf, he feels the same as Tom Brady.
Trump told Dr. Oz, “People are amazed because I don’t get much with the colds.” Sometimes, he admitted, he got hay fever, but not often anymore.
His wife Melania, he said, is a fan of the show. “This is, in a way, going to see my doctor–it’s just a little bit public,” Trump said.
Doctor Mehmet Oz is a strapping older gentlemen who delights stay-at-home-moms across America with his charm and dieting advice and sinewy frame decorated by his scrubs.
He graduated from Harvard University in 1982, and then received his medical and MBA degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. He eventually rose to great acclaim as a heart surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, and as the director of the Cardiovascular Institute and Integrative Medicine Program at Columbia University.
But then TV came calling.
Oprah gave him his own show, turning him into a household name but, in the process, shattering his reputation. He was dubbed “America’s doctor” by Oprah, patron saint of TV-loving women and lover of crash diets and pseudo-science, in 2004.
As The New Yorker noted in an extensive profile in 2013, “Oz is an experienced surgeon, yet almost daily he employs words that serious scientists shun, like ‘startling,’ ‘breakthrough,’ ‘radical,’ ‘revolutionary,’ and ‘miracle.’” In 2014, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing on false weight loss advertising, wherein Dr. Oz was filleted by Sen. Claire McCaskill for promoting weight loss methods based on junk science or no science at all, like the idea that green coffee bean extract can help you shed pounds.
Ahead of the show on Thursday morning, McCaskill appeared on Morning Joe to call Dr. Oz and Trump “two snake oil salesmen.”
The two salesmen did briefly discuss the “medical records” the Trump campaign sent to reporters before the appearance—that were in fact, just a short letter signed by his unusually coiffed doctor, Harold Bornstein.
“Mr. Trump was hospitalized only once, as a child of 11 years old for an appendectomy,” the letter read. “Mr. Trump’s laboratory results reveal the following: Cholesterol 169, HDL cholesterol 63, LDL cholesterol 94, triglycerides 61, PSA 0.15, blood pressure 116/70, blood sugar 99 and C Reactive Protein UQ 0.7. His liver function and thyroid function tests are all within the normal range. He has had an annual physical exam in the spring of every year. His last colonoscopy was performed on July 10, 2013, which was normal and revealed no polyps. His calcium score in 2013 was 98. His EKG and chest X-ray on April 14, 2016, were normal. His cardiac evaluation included a transthoracic echocardiogram on December 16, 2014. This study was reported within the range of normal. His testosterone is 441.6. There is no family history of premature cardiac or neoplastic disease. He takes a lipid lowering agent (rosuvastatin) and a low dose aspirin. He does not use tobacco products or alcohol.”
Previously, Bornstein wrote a letter, reportedly in five minutes while Trump’s limo waited, saying, “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
Trump’s appearance comes after weeks of speculation and concern trolling about Clinton’s health, which reached a fever pitch after she was filmed fainting at a 9/11 memorial service over the weekend, due to what her campaign first said was dehydration but later disclosed was pneumonia. Clinton released her own medical records on Wednesday to comparatively little fanfare.
Trump’s method of medical disclosure is, needless to say, not how running for president has ever worked.
When John McCain was campaigning in 2008, when he was 71, he quelled concerns about being potentially the oldest man to ever serve in the White House by disclosing extensive information about his medical history. Reporters were given 1,173 pages of documents, spanning eight years, to review.
McCain, we learned, had a number of melanomas in the past for which he was screened every few months. He didn’t have perfect cholesterol or blood pressure, but it also wasn’t worrisome, and he took medication for the former. He had benign colon polyps removed and he had kidney stones in 2001. He quit smoking in 1980. He had earwax removed by a doctor. Sometimes when he stands, he gets dizzy, which was diagnosed as vertigo.
But eight years later, that level of detail about the person who wants to lead the United States is but a memory.
And in it’s place—we have Dr. Oz, who, in all his wisdom, told Trump his level of testosterone was “good.”