Dr. Mehmet Oz, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, speaks in Springfield, Pa., Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Ryan Collerd)
Dr. Mehmet Oz, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, speaks in Springfield, Pa., Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Ryan Collerd)

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach claims Dr. Oz has been transformed from a moderate Republican into an “election-denying, genocide-denying caricature of an extremist.”

Riding the Trump train can be a bumpy affair. That’s the lesson the Oz campaign is learning the hard way.

According to a recent article in Rolling Stone, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach was a longtime Oz supporter, encouraging him for years to run for office so he could run a “values-based campaign” and become a leader.

Now that Oz is running for Senate, and his campaign is floundering, even his closest supporters are voicing their concerns.

Rabbi Boteach is a high-profile personality and media figure in conservative circles, and also a longtime friend of Mehmet Oz. His criticisms of the Oz campaign are not those of some pundit or outsider, but those of a close confidant and, until recently, a vocal supporter.

“The man running for Senate is not Dr. Oz,” he says. “This person is unrecognizable to me.”

Boteach goes as far as to joke that Oz might have been kidnapped by “space aliens” and replaced with a depraved clone. The statement was made in jest, but the concerns are quite real. Boteach claims that the campaign has taken a moderate Republican and turned him into an “election-denying, genocide-denying caricature of an extremist.”

The rabbi is referring to Oz’s embrace of Trumpian election fraud lies, and also his approach to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his positions on the Armenian genocide.

This split with old friends and moral leaders is not uncommon when candidates are forced to embrace the twice-impeached former president and his plethora of Q-Anon generated conspiracy theories, hate speech, and alleged criminality. On the Trump train, this is the baggage, and it may be too heavy a load for Oz to carry.

Most polls suggest that Oz’s opponent, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, holds a significant advantage at this point in the race, and recent reports suggest that only the darkest of dark money groups are still willing to spend money to bolster the Oz campaign’s final push.

What both the polls, and the public denouncements show us is simple: There is no such thing as half an extremist, and no one gets off the Trump train with their career or their personal relationships intact.