When Alex Trebek passed away last year following a long battle with cancer, fans and producers of Jeopardy knew that the best way to honor the beloved host’s memory was to ensure that the show would go on in his absence.
The question, of course, was how.
How to find a suitable replacement for a man whose charisma and erudition had made him one of the most iconic television stars in the history of the medium?
Eventually, producers settled on a strategy:
They would employ a series of guest hosts in order to involve the public in the search for a new host for TV’s most revered game show.
Some of the auditioners were obvious choices, such as all-time highest-earning Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings.
Others were more off the beaten path, but for the most part, fans have been willing to give them all a chance.
But it seems they’ve decided to draw the line at Dr. Mehmet Oz.
As a bestselling author and Oprah-sanctioned medical expert, Oz has been issuing medical advice to the masses for several decades.
Unfortunately, he has a habit of endorsing ineffective or even harmful trends.
Jeopardy fans and former contestants believe that Oz’s willingness to embrace ignorance runs counter to the show’s ethos, and they’ve been openly critical of the decision to give him a turn behind the lectern.
Oz’s two-week run as guest host began on Monday’s show, and the media attention surrounding his stint has led to a renewed focus on a petition signed by 600 former contestants asking Jeopardy not to give the controversial physician a platform.
“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,” reads the petition.
“These ideas include promoting supplements that do nothing, legitimizing gay conversion therapy (which is banned in California, as well as 19 other states), dangerous “cures” for autism, and, most recently, the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19,” the letter continues.
“None of these things is backed by any scientific fact and by promoting them he is actively putting his viewers in danger.”
While Jeopardy has been praised for the diversity of its current slatr of guest hosts — a group that includes Katie Couric, Anderson Cooper, Mayim Bialik, Aaron Rodgers and Dr. Sanjay Gupta — the decision to include Oz has been derided as disastrous.
“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,” the open letter continues.
Again, the Times points to a 2015 petition by several of Oz’s colleagues at Columbia seeking to have him removed from his faculty position, where he currently sits as director of its Integrative Medicine Center.
“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,” wrote the contestants.
“What kind of message does this send to the LGBTQ+ and autistic contestants and viewers of ‘Jeopardy!’?” they asked.
“We’ve seen writers and judges frantically cross-reference answers in real time to make sure that the facts are accurate,” they write. “To then invite Dr. Oz to guest-host is a slap in the face to all involved.”
In response to past criticism of his views, Oz has claimed that he’s simply offering differing viewpoints and allowing his viewers to decide for themselves.
“I bring the public information that will help them on their path to be their best selves. We provide multiple points of view, including mine which is offered without conflict of interest,” he argued.
“That doesn’t sit well with certain agendas which distort the facts.”
Of course, there are places where facts trump opinions, and varying viewpoints give way to one essential truth — and a doctor’s office and the Jeopardy studio are two such environments.
Perhaps Dr. Mehmet Oz shouldn’t be trusted in either.