Dr. Mehmet Oz hasn’t been the most forthcoming of the Senate candidates running this midterm cycle, a dynamic that played out at a campaign event in Philadelphia on September 19, when the Republican consoled a woman named Sheila Armstrong as she discussed how she lost her brother and nephew to gun violence.
In an article on the event, the Associated Press played the story straight at the time and ran a photo of Oz hugging Armstrong. But there was an element of reality TV. After the campaign manager for Democratic candidate John Fetterman complained in a tweet about Oz misleading voters about Armstrong being a “paid staffer from his campaign,” the Intercept confirmed that she was employed by Dr. Oz, pulling up records from the Federal Election Commission showing payments to Armstrong that the campaign filed in June as “payroll.” Fetterman’s campaign manager, Brendan McPhillips, provided more receipts of Armstrong’s employment, including her business card describing her as the “Philadelphia County coordinator” for Oz.
By no means did Armstrong invent the story: Her nephew, Duval DeShields, was killed in a 2015 shooting at the age of 14. But the event certainly misled reporters and the very few members of the public who attended. At the talk in Philadelphia, which was centered on gun violence, Oz — who is running a campaign touting gun rights — did not mention any measures of how to increase public safety in a city where crime is rising.
When Armstrong’s employment by Oz was made public, the AP updated the story to “reflect the [sic] Armstrong has been an employee of the Oz campaign.” The photographer who took the picture of Oz with Armstrong told the Intercept that “she was not presented, in my recollection, as anything other than a grieving family member.”