Dr. Oz, the physician turned talk show host turned New Jersey resident who wants to represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate, has made gun violence a big issue in his campaign. Not that Oz has offered any specific policy solutions on that front; his commercials mainly attack opponent John Fetterman as weak on crime without telling PA residents (like me) what he’d actually do about it.
But at least Oz has a heart, right? He showed it at a campaign appearance in September on Thursday, consoling a woman told the story of a teenage relative who’d been gunned down. The shooting actually happened, but seemingly spontaneous moment of affection turned out to be not so spontaneous, since the woman, Sheila Armstrong, wasn’t just a random audience member but a paid Oz campaign staffer in the Philly area.
Intelligencer reported on the incident on Friday, noting that the Philadelphia area has a soaring rate of gun violence and that Oz is running a campaign that openly advocates for the right to carry guns pretty much anywhere.
In an article on the event, the Associated Press played the story straight at the time and ran a photo of Oz hugging Armstrong. But there was an element of reality TV. After the campaign manager for Democratic candidate John Fetterman complained in a tweet about Oz misleading voters about Armstrong being a “paid staffer from his campaign,” the Intercept confirmed that she was employed by Dr. Oz, pulling up records from the Federal Election Commission showing payments to Armstrong that the campaign filed in June as “payroll.”
The Associated Press later updated the caption on the photo to reflect the fact that the woman was an Oz staffer. The photographer who took it was quoted by Intelligencer as saying that she had been presented by the campaign as “a grieving family member,” which was true, just missing some seriously important context.