Dr Mehmet Oz, the celebrity heart surgeon best known for his Dr Oz Show and promoting questionable medical products, has announced his run for Pennsylvania’s open US Senate seat as a Republican.
Dr Oz revealed his candidacy in an opinion piece for the Washington Examiner, where he railed against the government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Over 750,000 in the US have died from the virus, a devastating toll for families and communities. Many of those deaths were preventable," Dr Oz said.
"Covid-19 became an excuse for the government and elite thinkers who controlled the means of communication to suspend debate."
A regular guest on Fox News at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Dr Oz was criticised in 2020 for suggesting that reopening schools might be worth the extra deaths, because it “may only cost us 2 per cent to 3 per cent in terms of total mortality".
He also supported using hydroxychloroquine, which doctors have strongly urged Americans not to take, to treat Covid-19, before he assumed a more cautious approach.
The Dr Oz Show produced 55 original episodes at the height of the pandemic last year, and averaged 1.68 million viewers in the last two weeks of March 2020, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Dr Oz brings instant name recognition to a crowded Republican field with no clear front-runner now that former US president Donald Trump's candidate dropped out after abuse accusations from his estranged wife.
A long-time New Jersey resident, Dr Oz was appointed by Mr Trump to the presidential Council on Sports, Fitness and Health.
He has already hired campaign aides and has contacted some Republican political leaders, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Dr Oz shot to fame after appearances on Oprah Winfrey's TV show and became host of his own in 2009, recently renewed for its 13th and 14th series.
He has been criticised for promoting questionable medical products and advice. A group of doctors in 2015 called him a charlatan "selling quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain".
Researchers from the University of Alberta found in 2014 that, of 80 randomly selected recommendations from Dr Oz’s shows, often dietary advice, about half were unsupported by evidence, or contradicted by it.
Agencies contributed to this report