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Dr. Oz Responds to Critics: 'It's Not a Medical Show'

The Dr. Oz Show is actually "not a medical show" but will no longer use words like "miracle," Dr. Mehmet Oz told NBC News in an exclusive interview.
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/ Source: NBC News

The Dr. Oz Show, criticized by 10 physicians for promoting unscientific cures, is actually "not a medical show," but it will no longer use "inflammatory" words like "miracle," Dr. Mehmet Oz told NBC News in an exclusive interview.

Oz responded to a several criticisms raised last week by 10 fellow physicians who urged Columbia University to cut ties with the surgeon. In reaction to their assertions that he peddles "quack treatments," Oz said his show's purpose is "not to talk about medicine" but to discuss "the good life."

He denied accusations of conflicts of interest, telling NBC's Stephanie Gosk he has never sold any supplement or product "off the show." He acknowledged, however, "there are segments that I made that I wish I could take back."

Portions of the interview will air Thursday evening on Nightly News. Oz is scheduled to appear Friday morning on the TODAY for an exclusive interview with Matt Lauer.

"There are segments that I made that I wish I could take back."

"It's called The Dr. Oz Show. We very purposely, on the logo, have 'Oz' as the middle, and the 'Doctor' is actually up in the little bar for a reason," Oz said. "I want folks to realize that I'm a doctor, and I'm coming into their lives to be supportive of them. But it's not a medical show," he added.

"The purpose is not to throw you at you the biggest articles published by doctors that week. Frankly it's not very much fun to listen to [those], either. It's to have a conversation with people who may be feeling the way you feel right now and maybe got better."

He also addressed the so-called "Dr. Oz effect," in which numerous Internet sites, he said, "hijack footage" from his program to sell so-called health products for their own financial gain — a steady dose of online trickery that Oz called a big challenge.

"I take responsibility for that completely," Oz said. "There are segments that I made that I wish I could take back. If I could just go back in time, I would have never allowed those words to come out of my mouth, because it completely perverted the conversation I was having with America. But I can't take back those segments."

Last Friday, the 10 doctors wrote Columbia University, seeking his dismissal from school's surgery department. "Dr. Oz has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine," they wrote.

A Columbia spokesman responded to the doctors, saying the university is "committed to the principle of academic freedom."

Those doctors are not his only critics. Last summer, at a U.S. Senate hearing, Oz was questioned by Sen. Claire McCaskill about an episode that focused on a questionable weight loss supplement.

"Why would you cheapen your show by saying things like that?" McCaskill asked at the time.

Did that question resonate with Oz?

"It resonated very very much, and I've thought a lot subsequently," Oz told NBC News. "And we're specifically avoiding some phrases that we know are inflammatory -- things like 'miracle'."

Since then, the show has stopped showcasing diet supplements altogether.

Oz called the letter to Columbia "a targeted attack," adding the signers had "some additional motives." He said he began to look into the doctors' backgrounds and he counters that the letter's true motive comes from some of the signers' backing of GMOs, or genetically modified organisms such as crops.

Asked if his programs on GMOs amounted to fear-mongering by advising viewers to "see how you can keep your family safe," Oz said he was trying to raise awareness.

"We're specifically avoiding some phrases that we know are inflammatory -- things like 'miracle'."

"We're making a daytime television show, and we use tools in that experience to try to get things on people's radar screens," Oz said.

"My issue with GMOs is twofold. One, not everyone agrees that they're okay. So if you don't think they're okay, you should know 64 countries around the world mandate that it's written on the package. I wouldn't expect anything less from our country.

"The second issue with GMOs is the primary reason they're being made is to allow pesticides, highly toxic pesticides to be doused in much greater than usual quantities on our crops," Oz said.

On Thursday, eight of Oz's Columbia University colleagues published in USA Today a critical op-ed piece about Oz and suggested he open each show with this disclaimer: "The opinions expressed on this program may not be evidence-based or part of accepted medical practice and have no endorsement from Columbia University."

"Many of us are spending a significant amount of our clinical time debunking Ozisms regarding metabolism game changers," the eight Columbia faculty members wrote. "Irrespective of the underlying motives, this unsubstantiated medicine sullies the reputation of Columbia University and undermines the trust that is essential to physician-patient relationships."