Senate Majority PAC, the top outside group looking to keep the legislative chamber in Democratic control, will begin spending millions on Tuesday airing an ad that emotionally attacks Pennsylvania Republican nominee Mehmet Oz over allegations that medical studies he oversaw led to animal abuse.
The ads come as polls have shown a tightening race in Pennsylvania’s closely watched contest between Oz and Democratic nominee John Fetterman, with polls showing Oz closing the polling advantage that Fetterman had over the summer. The race represents one of the best opportunities for Democrats to pick up a seat in the Senate.
The ads stem from Oz’s time as the “principal investigator” in the Columbia University Institute of Comparative Medicine labs, where Oz’s research involved the use of dogs, pigs, calves, rabbits and rodents, according to public reports and documents reviewed by CNN. The website Jezebel published a report earlier this month claiming that between 1989 and 2010, more than 300 dogs were killed in the process of this research, according to the site’s review of Oz’s published studies. Additionally, Columbia University paid a $2,000 fine to the USDA for violations of the Animal Welfare Act in 2004 after the university investigated its animal research practices, including research conducted by Oz.
In its 2020 guidelines on animal euthanasia, the American Veterinary Medical Association acknowledges the killing of healthy animals, including in conjunction with biomedical research, is “unpleasant and morally challenging,” but also “a practical necessity.”
Oz has denied the allegations outlined in the report and Brittany Yanick, a spokeswoman for the Oz campaign, said this month that “Oz never abused any animals, and suggesting otherwise is ridiculous,” arguing that the candidate was “not in the operating room when the operations were done, he wasn’t present during the post-op treatments, no one alerted him of the problem until after the cases were finished and he does not condone the mistreatment of animals.”
The super PAC will air two 30-second ads on the topic – one titled “Cruel,” where a narrator says dogs were “subjected to extreme suffering” in the lab, and another titled “6313,” which focuses on the treatment of a specific dog that suffered “days of unimaginable pain and suffering.”
One of the ads will first air on Tuesday during Game 1 of the National League Divisional Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves. The ads will then be put into the super PAC’s statewide rotation, where an aide to the super PAC says millions will be spent to air it across Pennsylvania. One of the ads will also air during Game 2 of the series between the Phillies and the Braves on Wednesday.
The super PAC plans to spend over $33 million on television ads in Pennsylvania this cycle.
The ads use video that is labeled as generic footage of animal testing – including dogs in cages and in other lab settings – not video specifically taken from inside Oz’s lab at Columbia. Oz does appear in the ads at times, including in doctor’s scrubs and in what looks like a hospital setting, but an aide to the super PAC tells CNN there are no images of Oz inside the Columbia lab.
“Pennsylvania families deserve a Senator who chooses compassion over unconscionable cruelty, and that’s why they’ll reject Oz and stand with John Fetterman in November,” said Senate Majority PAC spokesperson Veronica Yoo.
CNN has reached out to Oz’s campaign for comment.
Animal rights groups have long opposed such killings and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in 2004 alleged that Oz was “responsible for the extreme suffering endured by dogs used in his heart experiments,” citing whistleblower testimony and documents from an internal investigation by Columbia University.
With weeks left in the election, the ads appear aimed at evoking an emotional response from viewers and halting Oz’s tightening of the race with Fetterman.
After the initial Jezebel report, Fetterman’s campaign jumped on the allegations, with the lieutenant governor writing on Twitter, “Dr. Oz kills puppies. That’s the tweet” and sarcastically responding to an Oz tweet from May where the Republican posed with a dog by asking, “Has anyone seen this dog since May?”