Mehmet Oz, the Republican candidate for the senate seat in Pennsylvania, has been accused of misleading the public for not pointing out that the gun violence survivor he comforted at a “community discussion” in September was his campaign coordinator.
Dr Oz spoke with Sheila Armstrong inside a Black church as she broke down recounting how her brother and nephew were killed in Philadelphia at his campaign event on 19 September. Ms Armstrong held a handmade sign which read “gone but not forgotten” for her dead relatives.
The emotional meeting between the gun violence survivor and the Republican candidate was highlighted by the Associated Press through a feature story this week, that described the event as “chairs arranged a bit like [Dr Oz’s] former daytime TV show set”.
“Later, he gave her a hug, and said, ‘How do you cope’,” the Associated Press wrote.
After the publication of the story, Brendan McPhillips, the campaign manager for Dr Oz’s opponent John Fetterman, complained on Twitter that the news agency failed to note that Ms Armstrong was a paid member of the Republican candidate’s campaign.
Mr McPhillips posted a screenshot of a business card Ms Armstrong had shared on her public Instagram account in June, where she identified herself as the “Philadelphia County Coordinator” for Dr Oz’s campaign.
According to the Federal Election Commission records, Ms Armstrong was on the campaign’s payroll and earned over $2,000 at the end of June, The Intercept reported.
Her Instagram account also features campaign events in Philadelphia and photos of her with the candidate that were posted between the months of June and September.
While media outlets initially failed to mention Ms Armstrong’s ties with the candiadate, the Associated Press and the Philadelphia Inquirer later updated their story.
“As soon as AP learned of Armstrong’s campaign affiliation and confirmed it, we updated our story,” a spokesperson for the news agency told The Intercept.
Ryan Collerd, a freelance photojournalist who took the photograph of Dr Oz with Ms Armstrong for AP, said he had no idea she was affiliated with the campaign.
“She was not presented, in my recollection, as anything other than a grieving family member,” Mr Collerd said.
The allegation comes less than a month prior to the elections, which could determine control of the senate.