Donald Trump has been criticized for his lack of government experience, with many pundits mocking his reality show background. But the GOP presidential nominee does not seem opposed to using a few pages from the reality TV script on the campaign trail.
Trump finally released medical records for the first time Thursday on the syndicated "The Dr. Oz Show." Trump presented Dr. Mehmet Oz with a letter from his personal physician detailing the results of his most recent physical examination. Trump could have easily given voters insight into his medical history in a much more conventional way — after the episode aired Thursday he simply released the letter to the press — but he instead opted to filter the reveal through the lens of a daytime talk show.
Trump's strategy is right out of the reality TV playbook, where drama and moments of controversy during a TV season are often resolved well after the fact in overly hyped recap shows where cast members and contestants confess their side of the story to inquisitive and empathetic hosts. Trump teased his "Dr. Oz" reveal all week, apparently surprising the host himself with the presentation of the physician's letter, ensuring maximum publicity for the manufactured moment.
Health has become a major issue in the 2016 election, with Trump questioning the health of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton Trump while showing a reluctance to reveal too much detail about his own medical history.
"Dr. Oz" is hardly the go-to destination for sound medical analysis. Studies have found that a majority of the show's health recommendations were not supported by medical evidence. But the campaign strategy helps gives Trump control over the narrative of his health.
Instead of the media picking apart Trump's records themselves, any analysis now serves as mere follow-up to Trump's positive examination from Dr. Oz. And though Dr. Oz is an esteemed heart surgeon, Trump's surprise approach forced Dr. Oz to interpret Trump's letter in real time instead of having time to prepare follow-up questions or more thorough analysis. The GOP nominee also only released a a letter from his physician and not actual medical records, as previous nominees have done.
Trump, who spent over a decade hosting NBC's reality competition show "The Apprentice" before launching his presidential bid, has used similar strategies in attempts to control media narratives. Earlier this month, The New York Times obtained a leaked script of questions and prepared answers for Donald Trump's visit to an African-American church in Detroit — the visit was an attempt to reverse Trump's so far dismal polling among African Americans.
Trump also used the primary debates as an opportunity to pit his Republican opponents against each other and provoke uncharacteristically emotional reactions from opponents through personal attacks. The barrage of insults and bickering that resulted would have been at home on an episode of "Real Housewives" and critics argue that it was meant to distract from holes in Trump's actual policy knowledge.
The GOP nominee has also made a habit of teasing bombshell speeches more than a week ahead of time, not unlike a reality show promo, in order to court more media coverage.
There might be a more cynical reason why Trump decided to air his medical history on "The Dr. Oz Show" — it is good politics. The show has major support among women ages 25-54 and Trump has struggled to win over female voters.