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Oprah rejects her protégé Dr. Oz and backs Democrat John Fetterman in Pa. senate race

Oprah Winfrey speaks during Oprah's 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus Tour at Chase Center on February 22, 2020 in San Francisco, California.

Oprah Winfrey announced she will endorse Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman over his Republican opponent Mehmet Oz, a celebrity doctor who came to prominence on her show in the early 2000s.

Democratic candidate Fetterman has been hoping to win Winfrey's endorsement for months, given her status and influence among women and Black people. The closely contested senate race in Pennsylvania is a key one in the high-stakes 2022 midterm elections, with Democrats and Republicans holding an equal number of seats in the U.S. Senate.

"[At the beginning of the midterm campaigns,] I said it was up to the citizens of Pennsylvania, but I will tell you all this — if I lived in Pennsylvania, I would've already cast my vote for John Fetterman, for many reasons," Winfrey said during a virtual event Thursday.

Winfrey brought on Oz as a regular guest on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" for more than five seasons in the early 2000s. Her company, Harpo Productions, then helped him start his own show "The Dr. Oz Show" in 2009.

"Oprah knows Dr. Oz very well and decided to support us 'for many reasons,'" Fetterman wrote on Twitter Friday. "The best November surprise."

Fetterman Campaign Spokesperson Joe Calvello called Oprah's endorsement for Fetterman a "devastating rebuke of Dr. Oz."

"One by one, the people who know Oz best are coming out against him and making clear that he should not serve in the United States Senate," he wrote in a press release.

Winfrey, a high-profile liberal with star power, campaigned for Barack Obama in 2007 ahead of the Democratic primaries, voiced support for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and actively supported President Joe Biden in 2020.

Winfrey also visited Georgia in 2018 to campaign for Democrat Stacey Abrams in her previous bid for Georgia governor, and is again showing her support for Abrams in her rematch with incumbent Republican Brian Kemp.

Those candidates have counted on Winfrey's broad-based appeal. Former president Donald Trump even told CNN talk show host Larry King in 1999 that Winfrey would be his top pick for running mate.

"I love Oprah. Oprah would always be my first choice," Trump said. "If she'd do it, she'd be fantastic. She's popular. She's brilliant. She's a wonderful woman."

At Thursday's event Winfrey also voiced her support for other Democratic candidates in key Senate and governor races at the virtual event, including North Carolina's Cheri Beasley, Florida's Val Demings, Wisconsin's Mandela Barnes, Nevada's Catherine Cortez Masto, Texas' Beto O'Rourke, and Georgia's Raphael Warnock and Stacey Abrams.

"There are clear choices out there," Winfrey said. "So use your discernment and choose wisely for the democracy of our country."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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