Oprah Finally Getting the Criticism She Deserves

Oprah has had a platform for spreading woo for too long. She has had so many loyal viewers of her show, and she is good at telling a story. Every day she has the opportunity to present truth, to give useful information, and to make it entertaining. But so often Oprah does a disservice to her audience by providing a medium through which her guests can sell non-evidence-based,Oprah potentially very harmful quackery with virtually no criticism.

Last week this newsweek article got a lot of attention. I was happy to see such a high profile magazine with such a critical article of Oprah’s quack-peddling ways.

Here‘s Oprah’s response to the article:

For 23 years, my show has presented thousands of topics that reflect the human experience, including doctors’ medical advice and personal health stories that have prompted conversations between our audience members and their health care providers. I trust the viewers, and I know that they are smart and discerning enough to seek out medical opinions to determine what may be best for them.

I’m sure, Oprah…your guests such as Jenny McCarthy and Suzanne Somers blather on about how you can’t trust the medical establishment and then you expect them to listen to the advice of their doctors? This CNBC show demonstrates the power that Oprah has over her viewers. It’s lazy and irresponsible of her to just brush off the criticisms raised by Newsweek.

I’m hoping Newsweek has inspired the media to do more critical reporting, and I’m hoping that it teaches at least some of Oprah’s followers to not take what she says at face value.

From what Oprah has said about the article it doesn’t look like she has any intentions of changing her ways, but maybe it will make her think twice about endorsing the likes of Jenny McCarthy.

On a related note, Skepchick posted a link to a site called OprahsVaJayJay.com. I like what Rebecca Watson says about it:

The word “vajayjay,” as used by Oprah and her ilk is indicative of the way Oprah addresses women’s health issues in general: dumbed down, wishy washy, cutesy, pseudoscientific. She is creating a world in which the word “vagina” is too dirty to utter but it’s totally okay to have Dr. Christiane Northrup go on at length about redirecting her “chi” in order to orgasm…I hope that the owner of OprahsVajayjay.com expands to include more clips of her mind-blowing vagina-related idiocy. There’s enough material out there, after all.

I concur, Rebecca.

10 Responses to “Oprah Finally Getting the Criticism She Deserves”

  1. 1 Lauren October 18, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Throughout the past year and a half I have struggled with hives, gigantic itchy red welts that appear all over my body and cause my face, hands, and feet to swell. There have also been times where my throat has swollen shut unexpectedly and I have been rushed to the emergency room. The irritating hives make it impossible to sleep well, the release of histamines (allergy cells) in my body cause me to be lethargic, depressed, and basically miserable.

    I have seen many medical doctors and allergy specialists they have explained to me that I have Chronic Urticaria and there is no cure for it. They did allergy scratch and needle tests with no conclusive results. They prescribed me a drug that makes me drowsy and only lessens the hives. Then said I would have to take the drug for the rest of my life until the hives possibly “cleared up on their own”. I was devastated. After a month or two of the medicine the hives continued to reappear and I had to respond with increased dosages that led to even more lethargy and just a lessened quality of life.

    So I decided to seek out an alternative doctor similar to the kind Oprah has spoke of on her show. These doctors changed my eating habits completely and within a month I noticed the hives lessened. I continued to follow the plan laid out for me and after 4 months I was off the medicine prescribed by the Western Medical Doctors. It is now one year later and I have been totally hive free, I also lost 20 pounds, and no longer have the depression or mood swings I dealt with throughout my earlier years before I even had hives.

    Every single day I am grateful for the alternative medicine I encountered in my life and the joy I get to experience everyday because I am healthy because of it. If it had not been for those doctors I would have been condemned to a life of western drugs, obesity, possible diabetes (it runs in my family), and hives. This “quackery” is responsible for my happiness–and my experience was anything but quackery.

    Next time you’re considering other points of view or experiences it might help to research them. It appears as though you do not know much about non-traditional medicine. I think you rejected it out of hand only because Oprah talked about it. Which is incredibly close minded and unfortunate.

    I hope you can grow more as a person and come to understand other people’s perspectives instead of turning to irrational anger.

  2. 2 EnlightningLinZ October 23, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Hi Lauren,

    I’ve suffered from bad hives as well so I can sympathize. I had a bad allergic reaction one day after which I was covered with them for a few months, they were really awful, and then they got gradually less and less and now I only occasionally have a small outbreak of hives. Mine aren’t nearly as serious as yours though, I never had to go to the hospital. I’m sorry you had to struggle with them, but I’m happy to hear that you’ve recovered from them.

    I can also understand your searching out alternative options after your doctors failed to find a solution, I think that’s how a lot of people end up with alternative medicine practitioners, because they claim to have a cure for practically anything, where doctors won’t claim to be able to cure something that they don’t think can be cured.

    Have you considered that it wasn’t any kind of alternative medicine that got rid of your hives but simply the change in your diet? You said that they changed your eating habits, so maybe their changes eliminated whatever you were having a reaction to from your diet? A valid criticism of medicine is that doctors don’t have the kind of time that alternative medicine practitioners have, so your doctor wasn’t able to sit down with you and draw up a plan to get you healthy. From the small amount of information you gave it sounds like your alternative doctor simply got you to start eating healthy, which is great.

    But your story is just an anecdote (I’m not trying to minimize it, I think it’s fantastic that you got better). There are anecdotes in support of all kinds of weird and wacky things, and there are anecdotes in support of western medicine as well. That’s why we have to look at things scientifically, to eliminate the placebo effect. When you crunch the numbers, alternative modalities haven’t been shown to have an effect better than placebo, so western medicine doesn’t use them…that’s why they’re “alternative”. A better description would be non-evidence-based medicine.

    Sometimes people just get better for no apparant reason, sometimes somebody makes a small change in their life and they get better as a result of that, there are all kinds of factors like this that could result in an alternative medicine appearing to be the cure, so this stuff has to be controlled for. This is why anecdotes and testimonies like yours are not reliable. I’m getting really wordy here but basically all I’m trying to say is that the plural of anecdote is not data.

  3. 3 Lauren October 24, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Yes… The change in my eating habit was WHY the hives finally went away. It was taking out gluten, dairy, and soy products that worked.

    When I say “alternative medicine” that’s what I mean I am not talking about taking pills that an alternative doctor gave me.

    The reason it’s alternative is because a medical doctor would not consider changing food to fix my problem… the medical doctor would only provide me with a pill. Again, I am not claiming medicine from an alternative doctor is what made my hives go away. I never took any medicine from the alternative doctor.

    The changes I made to my diet were not small. They were drastic. I took out all food containing wheat/gluten products, dairy products, and soy products. The first 30 days I only ate vegetables and meat (no oils, salt/pepper, chips, processed food) after a few months the hives went away (this was after having them for over 4-5 months). I also drank a mixture of lemon juice and distilled water before every meal which helped cleanse my liver out.

    After a month of this clean eating we re-introduced foods one by one. I would have a bit of dairy and break out in hives within 4-6 hours of ingesting it. So we ruled out dairy. I went back to the diet mentioned above for a week until we were sure the reaction cleared up. Then I introduced wheat products. After 4-6 I broke out in hives. So we were able to rule that out.

    This is a method the medical doctors didn’t suggest and when I mentioned it discounted food intolerance as something that is not a possibility.

    I realize you want to discount what I went through as trivial and an anecdote which is some kind of anomaly. If it makes you feel better go right ahead. I can tell you’re someone very identified with your opinions. Which is unfortunate.

  4. 4 EnlightningLinZ October 24, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Oh okay I thought you were talking about alternative medicine. Oprah actually does do a good job on her show of promoting healthy eating, but she also promotes dangerous ideas like the Jenny McCarthy’s anti-vaccine bullshit and Suzanne Somers’s dangerous hormone therapies. That’s why I have a problem with her.

    Your doctor apparantly made a big mistake in ruling out your eating habits as a cause of your hives, so in your case it worked for you to go to this person who helped sort out your health issues. But that doesn’t mean it would work for everyone.

    I wasn’t trying to trivialize what you went through or brush it off. From what you’ve told me I know you went through horrible health issues and you worked hard to get to where you are now, and I think that’s awesome. Like I said before I’ve had less serious issues with hives and they’re absolute shit so I’m glad you found the solution to your problem. But I don’t see your situation as support for alternative medicine. I see it as evidence that your doctor or doctors failed you. I’m still convinced that western medicine works better than alternative medicine, because western medicine (I would just call it “medicine”) uses modalities that are supported by evidence.

    Your original comment was in defense of some of the people that Oprah promotes. Fine, she does promote lots of good people. But she also opens her show up for some people to promote dangerous ideas, and that’s not okay.

    Please don’t make assumptions about who I am. I’m fine with you criticizing my words and challenging what I say, because that’s how I can learn and grow. But you don’t know who I am, so I don’t appreciate you making untrue statements about my character. I’m not attached to my opinions. They can be changed, but only if I have a good reason to think that my original opinion was wrong.

  5. 5 Lauren October 25, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    I apologize for generalizing who you are based on your comments. You’re right I don’t know you and it was wrong to make judgments of your character.

    Also I thank you for understanding my situation a bit better. It’s hard to respond to what someone says in a post. Basically because you can’t ask for clarification.

    I think Oprah can promote whichever ideas she deems appropriate for her talk show. I also think she genuinely chooses topics which will help others. It is up to the people who are watching to use their critical thinking skills and their own skills of research to decide whether or not what she presents are things that are safe or healthy/right/etc for their own lives.

    When it comes to vaccinations it doesn’t seem to me that you have done much research on the topic. Why do you think it’s bullshit?

  6. 6 EnlightningLinZ October 25, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    I know it’s easy with commenting to misunderstand someone’s position! Thanks so much for apologizing, that’s very cool of you.

    Yes, Oprah can promote whatever she wants to on her show, but I think that as such a trusted figure she has a responsibility to be careful to not promote dangerous ideas. Not all of her viewers have the critical thinking skills or the time to put into researching every claim that’s made on that show, so I think a lot of people just tend to trust her.

    The topic of vaccines and the anti-vaccine movement is something that is of great interest to me and I have done a lot of research on it. Vaccines are safe and they save lives, yet Oprah allows people like Jenny McCarthy on her show who spread the dangerous ideas that vaccines are poisonous and cause autism, when there is no evidence to support that. This mistrust of vaccines is unfounded, and it is widespread. I’ve had members of my family send me email forwards full of wild claims about vaccines, and I’ve carefully looked into all of the claims to see whether they have any truth to them. So far I haven’t come across a single claim that would give me pause with regards to getting myself or my future children vaccinated. Have you?

  7. 7 Lauren October 26, 2009 at 1:30 am

    I saw the interview on Larry King where Jenny is discussing the dangers of vaccines. I think she makes a very good point about being selective of which shots you give to children.

    This overuse of healthcare and medicine is only leads to more money for the doctors and hospitals. We all want to believe that doctors have our best interests at heart but sadly this isn’t always the truth. I think educating yourself on what is in the vaccines, what they are treating, and what is necessary at what point in a child’s life is completely plausible.

    Jenny Mccarthy isn’t anti-vaccine she isn’t saying kids should get no vaccines whatsoever. She is encouraging parents to consider what they think is necessary for their child and telling them to spread out the shots over a longer time period. She is saying parents need to be their own health advocates. I think this is such an awesome message to send.

    I also think money is way too tied up in this issue. Healthcare is a mess in this country which is no secret.

    I myself refuse to get vaccinated.

  8. 8 Lauren October 26, 2009 at 1:38 am

    Interesting story about the swine flu vaccination.

  9. 9 Lauren October 26, 2009 at 1:42 am

    this interview as well with Larry King

  10. 10 Lain January 22, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    I don’t feel like saying “medical doctors don’t have time” is a very good excuse anymore. I get so tired of going to the doctor and saying “Look I’ve had X problem for a really long time and nothing is helping.” Rather than delve deeper, they always just prescribe something to treat the symptoms, rather than finding the real cause. It’s rare to find a doctor who actually takes time to get to the heart of the matter instead of just throwing drugs at it. Even if they don’t have time they could certainly refer to a dietician or allergist. It is frustrating that doctors often have the attitude of knowing better than you about your own body. I think sometimes doctors need to realize that they are specialists in medicine, and medicine isn’t always what’s required. They need to be more willing to refer and research…and not so quick to just use medicine. Medicine should be a *last* resort, after all other things have been ruled out — such as fitness, stress, diet, etc.

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