Dr. Oz guest hosts 'Jeopardy!' - cue the threats of boycotts, outraged tweets

The death of ‘Jeopardy!’ show host Alex Trebek left some big shoes to fill for those charged with finding his replacement. The struggle is exemplified by the number of guest hosts that have been chosen to keep the popular game show going until a permanent host is decided upon.

The guest hosts fill in for a two-week stretch. The contestant made famous by the show, Ken Jennings, was the first guest host. He was followed by the executive producer of the show, Mike Richards, and Katie Couric. Both Jennings and Couric presented problems due to public political statements, including those in social media. Jennings apologized for some bad tweets, including one against Barron Trump, the teenaged son of Donald Trump, then the president. He got out in front of the show’s announcement of his guest hosting and the attempts to cancel him went nowhere. Katie Couric sustained a prolonged hit, though, because of her comments in favor of the impeachment of Trump and her remarks to Bill Maher that Trump supporters have to be reprogrammed. She, too, survived the criticism and went on to guest host the show.

Dr. Oz has been chosen as the guest host for the next two weeks. He began yesterday and I admit that there was some eye-rolling in my house as we tuned in. We are regular viewers of ‘Jeopardy!’ and frankly, we were happy to see Couric’s time come to an end. Not only did the presence of Couric remind us of her political opinions but she had a strong narcissistic tendency to make the questions and answers about herself and her experiences. She did it several times during each show. It was obnoxious.

Former contestants on the show and former winners are focused on canceling Dr. Oz now. They are calling for a boycott of the show during his time as guest hosts. In a letter to Richards, they admit that generally speaking, contestants on ‘Jeopardy!’ are a large group who do not agree on everything but in this instance, they are all united in their opposition to the choice of Oz. Another doctor chosen as a guest host, though, isn’t presenting a problem to them – Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Most of the guest hosts chosen are left-leaning.

Oz comes under fire because of his tendency to allow himself to get mixed up in questionable endorsements of products. His critics call him a snake oil salesman. As a bit of background, he was made famous by Oprah Winfrey and her television show. He was brought on as a frequent guest who delivered medical and health advice and then she gave him his own show on her television network. I tend to look at him as I do other Oprah proteges like Dr. Phil and Suze Orman – with a large grain of salt. Frankly, I would not look to any of them for advice but millions of people do. Yesterday Jake Tapper tweeted about Oz, questioning his legitimacy as a medical professional. I’ll leave it to you to determine how ironic it is for a CNN show host to slam anyone else over anything bogus, given that cable news network’s eagerness to deliver fake news on the regular if it suits their political narrative.

CNN is often criticized for “baseless or wrong” reporting, right?

To be clear, Oz is a doctor. He is Harvard educated and he received both a medical degree and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a cardiothoracic surgeon and a Columbia University professor. Unlike Jill Biden, he is a real medical doctor. He is a proponent of alternative medicine, though, and that is where his troubles lie. That is where the snake-oil charges come in. The former ‘Jeopardy!’ contestants and winners also, apparently, have a problem with Oz’s politically incorrect opinions about the LGBTQ community. The choice of Oz is a direct intellectual insult to viewers, they claim. “To then invite Dr. Oz to guest-host is a slap in the face to all involved.”

We understand that first and foremost, Jeopardy! is a television show, and ratings are important. However, Dr. Oz stands in opposition to everything that Jeopardy! stands for. Jeopardy! is a show that 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. 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. None of these things is backed by any scientific fact and by promoting them he is actively putting his viewers in danger. 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. And what kind of message does this send to the LGBTQ+ and autistic contestants and viewers of Jeopardy!?

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. We once viewed intelligence and genius as something that a single heroic intellect could embody. We have since learned and we now understand that we do much better at study and science when we approach it as a group and build off of each other’s insights and checks. But consensus does not mean that everyone gets a seat at the table to present “treatments” that at best, have no medical evidence to support them, and at worst, are shown by medical evidence to be actively harmful. 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.

There are more than 500 signatories to this letter. I just went through the list and there are 588 names as I write this on Tuesday morning. None of the names are of famous people or any of the other guest hosts that have been announced.

The beauty of ‘Jeopardy!’ is that viewers are not subjected to politics entering a game show. Trebek was the perfect show host. No one knows what his politics were or for whom he voted. He was Canadian by birth and it was obvious that he loved his job and enjoyed talking to contestants. He clearly loved living the American Dream. The problem with the Katie Courics of the world is that they use their celebrity to spout off with their hot takes, which, in a country, as divided as ours, will piss off about half of the people most of the time. Viewers tune in to ‘Jeopardy!’ to escape and maybe learn some facts along the way. It’s not so fun to look at a guest host who clearly doesn’t respect the views of others. I really hope that the talk of George Stephanapolous being considered as the permanent host does not come true. It would be a tragedy and an insult to Alex Trebek.