Oprah Winfrey on Thursday night turned on the TV doctor she propelled to stardom – saying she would vote for Dr Mehmet Oz’s rival John Fetterman in their battle to be elected to the Senate.
Oz, a Turkish-American surgeon, and Fetterman, the current lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, are neck-and-neck ahead of next week’s election.
Winfrey turned Oz into a household name when she appeared on his show in 2003, and invited him onto hers in 2004. He would go on to make more than 60 appearances on her hugely influential daytime show.
Yet on Thursday, the 68-year-old media mogul said she could not support her former guest.
‘At the beginning of the midterm campaigns, I said it was up to citizens to vote for who would represent them,’ said Winfrey, addressing a virtual voting town hall.
‘If I lived in Pennsylvania, I would have already cast my vote for John Fetterman.
Oprah Winfrey is seen in an early appearance with Dr Oz. On Thursday, she disavowed him and said she was backing his rival for the Senate, John Fetterman
Fetterman, pictured on Thursday, is currently neck and neck with Oz in the closely-contested race
‘There are clear choices and some dynamic candidates who are working to represent the values that so many of us hold dear—like inclusion, compassion and community.
Winfrey is seen in September at the premiere of the Apple TV show ‘Sidney’
‘So, I ask that voters use discernment and choose wisely for the democracy of our country.’
Fetterman was overjoyed at the news, tweeting in response a heart emoji and saying: ‘WELCOME TO #TEAMFETTERMAN, @Oprah!!’
Winfrey’s support of Democrats is not a surprise, but her disavowal of Oz will have stung.
The pair first met almost 20 years ago, in 2003, when Oz and his wife Lisa created a medical series called Second Opinion with Dr Oz for the Discovery Channel.
‘My friend Gayle was so intrigued by him that she encouraged me to be his first guest,’ Winfrey said in 2011, in an introduction to her interview with him for her magazine.
‘Lucky for me, Gayle isn’t just persuasive—she’s perceptive. The day of the taping, I immediately recognized what she’d sensed: a cardiac surgeon who cared as much about transforming people’s lives as he did about fixing their hearts.’
Winfrey and Oz have frequently appeared on each others’ shows
In a 2011 interview, Winfrey asked Oz: ‘Do you have any flaws?’
Winfrey’s endorsement of Fetterman will likely sting Oz, who she has known for decades
Winfrey invited Oz onto her show in 2004, and he went on to appear more than 60 times.
‘Over the years, he educated us, gave us helpful advice, and saved countless lives—from heart attack victims who, thanks to him, recognized their symptoms in time…to a cancer patient who, mindful of his warnings about medical mistakes, realized that she still had the tumor her surgeon was supposed to have removed,’ she continued.
‘He’s the reason I started wearing lower heels (my bunions are eternally grateful), and he taught me everything I know about the omentum.’
In the magazine interview, she asked him: ‘Do you have any flaws?’
Calls for Winfrey to condemn him escalated after his debate against Fetterman last month, and on Thursday she finally did so.
Winfrey also listed other Democrats she is hoping to see win.
‘If I was in North Carolina, sister Cheri Beasley, if I was in Florida, I’d be supporting Val Demings,’ she said.
‘If I was in Wisconsin, it’d be Mandela Barnes; in Nevada, Catherine Cortez Masto; in Texas, Beto O’Rourke; and Raphael Warnock and the incredible Stacey Abrams in Georgia.’