Oprah, the Queen of Quackery

In the forum Captain Al linked to a recent Newsweek article that's well worth reading. It details how Oprah Winfrey has routinely promoted dubious medical/pseudoscientific nonsense on her show. It appears that the only standard of evidence important to her is whether a claim is emotionally appealing. If a claim passes that test, then it must be true!

Some of the nonsense promoted on her show includes:
  • Suzanne Somers' vitamin/hormone cure for aging.
  • Jenny McCarthy's crusade to pin the blame for autism on vaccines.
  • Dr. Christiane Northrup's theory that thyroid dysfunction is caused by repressing your emotions.
  • Radio-wave skin tightening treatments.
  • And "The Secret", that by "thinking positively" you can attract success and good health to yourself.
The article doesn't even get into her relentless promotion of psychic scammers.


Posted on Mon Jun 01, 2009


But The Secret really works!
Posted by ostrakos  on  Mon Jun 01, 2009  at  11:23 AM
Plus all that stuff about not being Obama's wife.
Posted by Irene  in  Oregon  on  Mon Jun 01, 2009  at  01:13 PM
Oprah is obviously fulfilling a need, her success is testament to that. We should be looking at why people flock to her, what is missing in people's lives, and try to deal with that in socially and culturally positive and productive ways.
Posted by Canadarm  on  Mon Jun 01, 2009  at  04:37 PM
People have always liked snake oil salesmen, Canadarm. They give you easy answers to difficult questions.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Tue Jun 02, 2009  at  03:05 AM
All that stuff may seem "harmless," but the Jenny McCarthy crusade is going to have a body count when childhood diseases re-emerge.
Posted by gcason  on  Tue Jun 02, 2009  at  06:02 AM
According to:


169 preventable deaths have occured since McCarthy started her campaign against the health of children. I don't know how she can live with herself.
Posted by Croydon Bob  in  London, UK  on  Tue Jun 02, 2009  at  10:14 AM
I'm sure she has an elaborate rationalization for that, Croydon Bob.

To me, the REAL question is: Why would anyone take JENNY McCARTHY's opinions on medical matters seriously?
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Tue Jun 02, 2009  at  05:10 PM
Same answer. Let's replace snake oil with something real instead of blaming the victims.
Posted by Canadarm  on  Tue Jun 02, 2009  at  06:55 PM
It fits with her willingness to believe literary hoaxes. Someone coined the word 'truthiness' to describe her way of approaching these things - not, 'Is this true?' but, 'Does this have truthiness?'
Posted by Mr Henderson  in  Teddington UK  on  Wed Jun 03, 2009  at  06:36 AM
The medical experts she has on as regular guest are pretty dubious as well. This guy, Mehmet Oz, (http://www.oprah.com/contributor/health/droz) has been getting a lot of bad press for shady internet and pharmacy deals (it seems he sold a lot of personal information to pharma companies). He is now pimping Revastrol, an anti-oxidant that is linked with increased breast cancer:


(just for the record I am not claiming that I know what is best for you but simply that there is no proven benefit for this product and some statistical risk).
Posted by floormaster squeeze  on  Wed Jun 03, 2009  at  07:37 AM
OK, most of this stuff is quackery, but you've got to admit, Suzanne Somers looks pretty good for somebody who's, what, 879 years old?
Still, I'm not sure it's worth it:
"And once a day, she uses a syringe to inject estrogen directly into her vagina."
"... Next come the pills. She swallows 60 vitamins and other preparations every day. "I take about 40 supplements in the morning," she told Oprah, 'and then, before I go to bed, I try to remember
Posted by Big Gary  in  Old Dime Box, Texas  on  Wed Jun 03, 2009  at  08:54 AM
"...but you've got to admit, Suzanne Somers looks pretty good for somebody who's, what, 879 years old?"

Does she really look that young or are all those modeling photos she does for her products retouched? No, they wouldn't be that dishonest, would they?

TV doesn't show wrinkles very well especially with all the makeup that is standard issue for anyone going on the air. It would be interesting to see her in person, up close. Hair color can easily be changed to hide the gray but I bet there would be a few more wrinkles.
Posted by Captain Al  in  Vancouver Island, Canada  on  Wed Jun 03, 2009  at  11:21 AM
"But The Secret really works!"

Hilarious! Thanks ostrakos. That deserves a thread of its own.
Posted by Captain Al  in  Vancouver Island, Canada  on  Wed Jun 03, 2009  at  11:34 AM
Truthiness was coined by Stephen Colbert.
Posted by Canadarm  on  Wed Jun 03, 2009  at  04:44 PM
Oprah just needs to realize that people take her very seriously. If she really cared about her audience, she should be acting with more responsibility in vetting the people and ideas she has on her show.
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Wed Jun 03, 2009  at  11:33 PM
"Phil is not really a doctor, and all the advice I've ever heard him give (admittedly a limited sample, since I don't watch his show except when it's on somewhere I can't get away from) was bad."

According to wikipedia, he has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, but after being sanctioned in Texas, he didn't renew his license so he can't represent himself as a psychologist.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Thu Jun 04, 2009  at  01:34 AM
I think Phil's "PhD" is from some mail-order diploma mill.
Posted by Big Gary  in  Uncertain, Texas  on  Thu Jun 04, 2009  at  06:50 AM
OK, I should have read the Wikipedia article before commenting on it. Cranky's right, as always. "Dr." Phil's PhD is from the University of North Texas, which is a reasonably respectable institution.
Wikipedia also has this interesting note: "After run-ins with several faculty members, McGraw was guided through the doctoral program by Frank Lawlis, Ph.D., who later became the primary contributing psychologist for the Dr. Phil television show."

It's also true, though, that Phil McGraw hasn't been licensed to practice psychology in Texas or anywhere since 1989. He apparently claims that what he does on his TV shows is for entertainment only and doesn't constitute practice of psychology.

The whole Wikipedia piece has a number of eye-opening facts:
Posted by Big Gary  in  North Zulch, Texas  on  Thu Jun 04, 2009  at  08:35 AM
Posted by Unfairly Balanced  in  Earth  on  Thu Jun 04, 2009  at  09:51 AM
A little thing like being dead wouldn't stop Oprah. It wouldn't even slow her down.
Posted by Big Gary  in  Yantis, Texas  on  Thu Jun 04, 2009  at  11:28 AM
"A little thing like being dead wouldn't stop Oprah. It wouldn't even slow her down."

She would just use The Secret to will herself back to life.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Fri Jun 05, 2009  at  02:04 AM
Oprah also believes in pedophile rings with over 9000 penises that are all raping children.
Posted by Sakano  in  Ohio  on  Sat Jun 06, 2009  at  10:17 AM
I think that all means are good to achieve a good ratings! wink
Posted by Wrinkles Media Guy  in  USA OR  on  Sun Jun 14, 2009  at  02:47 AM
The 9000 penises hoax deserves a place in the Hoax Archive.
Posted by Chris Lees  in  Perth, AU  on  Sun Jul 19, 2009  at  05:39 AM
Liberal democrat guilt is to blame IMO . . . why else would so many peopel listen to anything a fat smei-literate jungle-bunny has to say?
Posted by D F Stuckey  in  Auckland New Zealand  on  Tue Aug 11, 2009  at  12:54 AM
it really cared about her audience, she should be acting with more responsibility in vetting the people and ideas she has on her show.
Posted by explore talent  in  USA  on  Wed Dec 30, 2009  at  12:02 AM
n 1995, Oprah Winfrey hired McGraw's legal consulting firm CSI to prepare her for the Amarillo Texas beef trial. Winfrey was so impressed with McGraw that she thanked him for her victory in that case, which ended in 1998. Soon after, she invited him to appear on her show. His appearance proved so successful that he began appearing weekly as a "Relationship and Life Strategy Expert" on Tuesdays starting in April 1998.

The next year, McGraw published his first best-selling book, Life Strategies, some of which was taken from the "Pathways" seminar.[7] In the next four years, McGraw published three additional best-selling relationship books, along with workbooks to complement them.

As of September 2002, McGraw formed Peteski Productions[19] and launched his own syndicated daily television show, Dr. Phil, produced by Winfrey's Harpo Studios. The format is an advice show, where he tackles a different topic on each show, offering advice for his guests' troubles.
Posted by karaciger yaglanmasi  on  Sat Mar 27, 2010  at  11:39 AM
karaciger yaglanmasi
Kalpoe lawsuit (2006)

McGraw was named a co-defendant, along with CBS Television, in a 2006 lawsuit filed in relation to the disappearance of Natalee Holloway.[42] The lawsuit was filed by Deepak Kalpoe and his brother Satish Kalpoe, who claimed that an interview they did with McGraw, aired in September 2005, was "manipulated and later broadcast as being accurate, and which portrays Deepak Kalpoe and Satish Kalpoe 'as engaging in criminal activity against Natalee Holloway and constitutes defamation.'"[42] The Kalpoe brothers claimed invasion of privacy, fraud, deceit, defamation, emotional distress, and civil conspiracy in the suit, which was filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Posted by karaciger yaglanmasi  on  Sat Mar 27, 2010  at  11:45 AM
Amazing that people believe whatever is on Oprah as gospel. The woman is great inspiration, but certainly not and expert in everything. But like anything we have turned the world into sensationalism, just like the news. Facts are missing from so much of what we hear. Would love to go back to the days of hearing the full story.
Posted by ayurvedah1  on  Mon Dec 06, 2010  at  12:28 PM
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