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Fact check: Misleading claims in attack ads against Pennsylvania GOP Senate candidates Oz and McCormick

Here’s a look at one of the attacks on Oz and one of the attacks on McCormick.

Two television ads from a super PAC called Pennsylvania Conservative Fund try to portray Oz as a phony who is merely pretending to be a conservative. Each of the ads features a narrator who claims Oz “was a spokesman for a group who wanted to defund the police.”
Facts First: This claim is misleading. Oz opposes the concept of defunding the police. His brief affiliation with the “group” these ads were referring to, a health-focused foundation called The California Endowment, had nothing at all to do with policing. Rather, Oz appeared in one health care ad for the foundation — in which he urged Californians to visit the foundation’s website to learn how to take advantage of the benefits offered by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The ad came out in 2010, roughly a decade before the “defund the police” movement rose to prominence.

Sarah Reyes, spokesperson for The California Endowment, said in an email that Oz had no involvement with the foundation beyond the ad. “Dr. Oz has never been employed by us or been a ‘spokesperson’ for our organization,” Reyes said.

The California Endowment did comment supportively in 2020 about protesters who were calling to defund the police in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, and its chief executive spoke favorably in 2021 about the idea of reducing the number of police officers on the street and instead improving health, jobs and housing programs. (This week, Reyes would not answer directly when CNN asked if the foundation supports defunding the police, saying, “As a private foundation we are prohibited from taking stands on policy issues. We do support prevention and healing.”)

Regardless, The California Endowment’s stance on defunding the police in the 2020s is beside the fact-check point here. The key fact is that the super PAC ads attempt to use Oz’s appearance in a single health care ad in 2010, years before most Americans had even heard the phrase “defund the police,” to hint that Oz supports police defunding. That’s deceptive.

Oz campaign spokesperson Brittany Yanick said in an email: “Claiming that Dr. Oz’s participation in a single advertisement for the California Endowment fund constitutes Dr. Oz’s endorsement of a position the organization took 10 years later is both misleading and wrong.”

CNN could not reach the super PAC behind the ad for comment. This claim about Oz and defunding the police was previously fact-checked by

McCormick and the 2016 election

An ad from Oz’s campaign claims that McCormick “paid for attacks on Donald Trump.”

Facts First: This claim is misleading. While McCormick did donate in early 2015 to a political action committee that supported Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, there is no indication that McCormick’s money was spent on attacks on Trump or intended for attacks on Trump — especially because McCormick made his $5,000 donation five months before Trump even began his candidacy for president.
Yanick, the Oz campaign spokesperson, said in an email that this claim in the ad was referring to the fact that “McCormick hosted one of the FIRST fundraisers” for Right to Rise, an arm of the pro-Bush operation that spent money attacking Trump. That’s true — McCormick was a member of the host committee for that January 2015 fundraiser — and the Oz campaign is entitled to criticize McCormick for it.

But it’s still a big stretch to claim that McCormick himself paid for any attacks on Trump.

First and foremost, that early Bush fundraiser happened more than five months before Trump launched his candidacy in a speech in June 2015. McCormick’s own $5,000 donation was recorded exactly five months before Trump’s announcement event. At the time, many observers scoffed at the idea that Trump was actually going to run.
Second, even after Trump did announce his run, Bush’s allies were reluctant for months to attack him. While the pro-Bush super PAC Right to Rise USA was funding attack ads against Trump by late 2015, there was a whole lot of elapsed time between those ads and McCormick’s donation at the beginning of the year. (In addition, McCormick’s January 2015 donation was to the pro-Bush leadership PAC with a similar name, not the super PAC that raised far more money and led the advertising effort.)
McCormick also donated $2,700 to Bush’s own campaign in June 2015, the month that Bush announced his candidacy. A McCormick campaign official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said this week that McCormick had gone on to support Trump in the general election, to vote for Trump in both 2016 and 2020 and to serve on the Trump administration’s Defense Policy Board.
McCormick did say at a Duke University event in early 2017, however, that “I wasn’t particularly involved with the Trump camp — I wasn’t a Trump supporter — but I wanted that president to be successful,” adding that he also would’ve wanted success for Hillary Clinton if she had won.
This claim about McCormick funding attacks on Trump was previously fact-checked by and PolitiFact.

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