American Idols: Dr. Oz, Trump and the Celebrity to Politics Pipeline

Produced by ‘The Argument’

Celebrities. They are ubiquitous in American culture and now, ever increasingly, in our politics. From Donald Trump to Dr. Oz, the memeification of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine — the power of celebrity has gripped our democracy and society. We want our elected officials to be superstars, but is that a good thing?

[You can listen to this episode of “The Argument” on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, or Google, or wherever you get your podcasts.]

So today, host Jane Coaston is joined by Jessica Bennett, contributing editor to Times Opinion and Frank Bruni, a contributing Opinion writer, to discuss our modern celebrity politics phenomenon and how it’s shaping our cultural and political realities.

“I’m distressed that we’ve conflated celebrity and politics because I think it gives politicians the wrong goals, the wrong motives,” Bruni says. And a lot of that is on us — the fans.

“We place values on celebrities that may not actually represent them, and they become something outside of themselves,” Bennett says. “They start to represent something that has nothing to do with the person who’s actually there.”

Warning: This episode contains explicit language.

Mentioned in this episode:

  • “Dr. Does-It-All” by Frank Bruni in The New York Times Magazine

  • “He’s Sorry, She’s Sorry, Everybody Is Sorry. Does It Matter?” by Jessica Bennett

  • Sign up for Frank Bruni’s newsletter for New York Times Opinion here.

(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)

Credit…Hannah Beier/Reuters

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“The Argument” is produced by Phoebe Lett and Vishakha Darbha. Edited by Alison Bruzek and Anabel Bacon. With original music by Isaac Jones and Pat McCusker. Mixing by Pat McCusker. Fact-checking by Kate Sinclair, Michelle Harris and Mary Marge Locker. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta with editorial support from Kristina Samulewski.

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