Mehmet Oz on Wednesday dipped into the hullabaloo over his now-viral attempt to shop for a crudité platter, addressing for the first time his remarks in an April video that boomeranged around the internet this week.
Speaking with the conservative news outlet Newsmax, Oz, the GOP Senate nominee in Pennsylvania, hit back at critics, including his Democratic rival, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who said the campaign video showed Oz was out of touch with Pennsylvania voters.
"I’ve rolled my sleeves up my whole life," Oz said, pointing to his work as a cardiothoracic surgeon and his philanthropic ventures. "That’s what my life’s been about. When I joke about a crudité — which is a way of speaking about how ridiculous it is that you can’t even put vegetables on a plate — in the middle of a campaign, we’ll do whatever we need to do to make sure the people of Pennsylvania respect what we’re about, and we will work as hard as we can to fix their problems.
"It’s what I’ve done my whole life and what I’ll continue to do," he added. "I challenge my opponent: What have you done rolling your sleeves up in your own life to make life better for the people of Pennsylvania?"
Twitter users resurfaced the April video of Oz shopping for groceries in a Redner's supermarket in Pennsylvania. The video was intended to show the impact of inflation on state voters.
"My wife wants some vegetables for crudité," Oz said, picking out broccoli, asparagus, carrots, guacamole and salsa for the platter of raw vegetables and dips. "Guys, that’s $20 for crudité, and that doesn’t include the tequila. I mean, that’s outrageous. And we’ve got Joe Biden to thank for this."
Not only did Google searches for "crudité" spike as the video went viral this week, but Oz's pronunciation of the name of grocery chain as "Wegners" also quickly trended on Twitter. "Wegners" appeared to be a combination of the supermarket chains Wegmans and Redner's.
"I was exhausted," Oz told Newsmax in explaining the flub. "When you’re campaigning 18 hours a day, I’ve gotten my kids’ names wrong, as well. I don’t think that’s a measure of someone’s ability to lead the commonwealth."
Fetterman, who has mostly kept out of the public eye after he suffered a stroke in May and just last week returned to the campaign trail, was quick to retweet the video Monday, saying: "In PA we call this a… veggie tray."
Fetterman's campaign said Tuesday it raised more than $500,000 since Oz's video went viral. The campaign said $65,000 of that was raised through sales of a new sticker that reads: "Wegners: Let Them Eat Crudité."
"John actually understands what it’s like to go grocery shopping and to see prices go up," Brendan McPhillips, Fetterman's campaign manager, said in a statement. "Oz clearly has never been in a grocery store before. That’s why this is resonating with supporters across Pennsylvania."
Oz's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.