SAY WHAT? - So....Given his hapless, tone-deaf, kamikaze campaign ads, maybe millionaire carpetbagger, quack huckster of magic-cure-everything pills, and "ridiculous performance artist that is Mehmet Oz" doesn't want to beat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman to become a GOP senator for Pennsylvania after all. Like several other famous but otherwise woefully unqualified GOP candidates, the guy who once ate a $2,000, gold-encrusted steak while playing a tacky doctor on TV carries as much ill-fitting baggage into a key battleground race as the traveling professor transformed, in a terrific MeidasTouch ad, into a slippery Wizard of Lies. Dorothy to the Wizard: "You're a very bad man." A well-known, Trump-endorsed snake-oil salesman - sex-bots! - Oz and his business got hit this summer with the largest ever class-action lawsuit settlement, over $5 million, for lying about a "magic weight loss cure" that wasn't; he later managed to whittle down the payment to $625,000, a pittance compared to an estimated net worth of over $100 million that would make him one of the fattest cats in the Senate. Not only is he a rich crook; he's also a famously longtime New Jersey resident who might actually still live there, despite running for the Senate seat in a hyper-localized Pennsylvania where residents proudly identify by county, city, even neighborhood.
Pennsylvania-born and bred, Fetterman has taken that dissonance and run with it, hammering home the message that Oz "isn't from here," and might not even live there. A brawny, straight-talking, Harvard-educated progressive and former football player who boasts he doesn't look or sound like a politician, he's fought for health care, GED, economic equity, LGBTQ rights, criminal justice reform, legalizing weed; as mayor of the poor, largely black town of Braddock, he opposed a highway project because it represented environmental racism. In a campaign that's mostly played out on social media, he's also a master troll. He has rolled out an online petition to get Oz enshrined in New Jersey's Hall of Fame, hired a plane to pull a banner over Jersey beachgoers welcoming Oz home, and recruited Jersey celebrities like "Snooki" from “Jersey Shore" and Little Stevie Van Zandt of Springsteen and "Sopranos" fame to badger Oz. "Yo, Dr. Oz! Stevie VZ here!" he calls. "What are you doing in Pennsylvania? Everybody knows you live in New Jersey and you're just using your in-laws' address there...Nobody wants to see you get embarrassed, so come on back to Jersey where you belong.”
Van Zandt also warns Oz, "You do not want to mess around with (the massive) John Fetterman - you're a little out of your league." True, that. To date, Oz' ads have been what Nazi ghoul Stephen Miller - yes, still with us - just called, trashing the FBI search, "risible," though he pronounced it "rise-able." In a "new, desperate, bizarre" ad that looks like a '50s cereal ad or a crude toon by someone's bored 10-year-old - no offense to bored 10-year-olds - Oz calls Fetterman "crazier than you think" and "radical," which must be why he has a bong, AOC and Bernie popping out of his head as he calls for free health care, legal weed, and less energy production to save the planet. C'mon, who'd want any of that? Critics wondered if Oz' team knew Monty Python created those visuals decades ago, and how making Fetterman look awesome will work out for them. Still, that ad looks like Michelangelo compared to "the worst Everyman shtick (ever) seen, newly re-surfaced from April, wherein Oz claims he's grocery shopping for his wife to make crudités. Because with Americans struggling to put crudités on the table, "Nothing says I am a man of the people like fake-shopping for crudités."
Lord, what a performative mess; no wonder he's trailing by double digits. Seeking to replicate the inflationary travails of the poors, Oz grabs broccoli, asparagus, a massive bag of carrots, guac and salsa - clutching them in his arms because he's clearly never ventured into a grocery store and seen those cool carts on wheels - and gripes to the camera that happens to be there about prices: “That’s $20 for crudités and this doesn’t include the tequila. It's outrageous and we’ve got Joe Biden to thank for this.” Also, thanks Obama. The problems are many: He says he's "at Wegner’s”; there is no Wegner's, but there's a Radner's and a Wegmans. He says they're making crudités - a fancy French term that in Pittsburgh would be a platter of raw vegetables with ranch dressing - which doesn't typically include asparagus, or tequila, or Mexican dips. He lies about the prices, which are by the pound. Ditto the questions: Does his wife really dip raw asparagus in salsa? Given the 5-pound bag of carrots, is his wife Bugs Bunny? Was the help, who usually buy the groceries, off that day? Who thought this was a good idea? Is this the fakest fake news ever?
Let the trolling begin: My grandfather once told me that crudité was his favorite thing to eat after a long, hard day in the steel mill. Time to buy normal groceries for my human family - we'll start with 30 carrots and a tub of guacomole. Ah crudités, chosen nosh of the everyman. Clean-up in Aisle 10: Dr. Oz just spilled his Senate campaign. Chef José Andrés offered to go "bipartisan shopping" with him and make guac/salsa for a buck a head. Ted Lieu, mock-horrified at the price of mirepoix, asked, How is my executive chef to prepare the coq au vin? Fetterman chimed in - "In PA we call this...a veggie tray" - and giddily celebrated his birthday gift from Oz: "I never dreamt 'Dr. Oz' and 'Crudités' would trend nationally on Twitter - on my birthday - but here we are." In gratitude, he's offering a "limited edition sticker" that reads, "Wegners: Let Them Eat Crudités." The final gleeful word on the Revenge of the Crudités goes to the wise-acre food workers and farmworkers - "We Feed You" - who made it possible. Amidst a march to ensure a safe union vote, farmworkers ask, "Ever wonder where the broccoli in your crudité comes from?" atop videos of their grueling work. "Remember the hands that harvested those tomatoes," they urge, "next time you dip your asparagus in salsa." Ooh: Burned crudiités for the (recently) landed gentry. Now that's magic.
(Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: [email protected])