A GOP Senate candidate touts 'love' for his patients. Some told a different story in harsh reviews.

Jeff Gunter has put his career as a dermatologist at the center of his Republican bid for Senate in Nevada, saying he’s “cared deeply” for his patients and has “treated, healed and saved countless lives,” in his three decades as a practicing physician.

“I think I just love my patients,” he said in his campaign announcement, 10 months before next week’s primary. “I love my job, and I feel blessed and fortunate that they have the confidence in me to take care of them.”

A number of former patients painted a different portrait of Gunter in more than two dozen blistering reviews on a leading medical review site, RateMDs.com, in which former President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Iceland was described as “arrogant,” “condescending,” “rude,” and “HORRIBLE,” with some users offering stark warnings to others not to go to his clinics. Many of the negative reviews long predated his entrance into politics.

Gunter was also named as a defendant in two medical malpractice lawsuits in California in 2006 and 2007, both of which were settled between the parties. The American Medical Association, a professional group that lobbies on behalf of doctors, published an analysis last year finding that about 1 in 3 physicians reported they had previously been sued.

“This guy is the reason why medical malpractice suits exist,” one reviewer on RateMDs.com, where Gunter has a 1.8-star rating, wrote in January 2015.

“His attitude towards us made me realize he should not be allowed anywhere near my body with a sharp instrument so I left abruptly and immediately filed a complaint with the CA Medical Board,” the reviewer added. “Something needs to be done. He is dangerous and completely ill-suited for this type of work.”

Gunter’s campaign declined to respond to the negative reviews but said in a statement that the malpractice claims in which he was listed as a defendant did not involve patients he personally had treated.

“In over 30 years Dr. Gunter has NEVER had a single malpractice claim when he personally treated the patient,” a campaign official said. “He has a large practice that primarily serves rural areas with active duty military members and veterans.”

Other reviews were more complimentary. Separate pages for Gunter on RateMDs contain just a handful of reviews between them and rate him as 3.3 and 5 stars. Gunter’s cumulative average rating across RateMDs, Healthgrades and Vitals, three leading medical review sites, was roughly 3.5 stars, with average ratings varying between 1.8 and 4.7 stars. RateMDs had the most written reviews (30) of the three sites, while his overall rating was strongest on Vitals, where one of the 16 written reviewers wrote in 2018 that they were “surprised at some of the poor reviews.” His practices have also been reviewed on other platforms such as Yelp and Google, where results were generally more positive than his RateMDs and Healthgrades ratings, though most did not mention Gunter by name.

In a statement to NBC News, Gunter blasted the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who leads the committee. He said questions about his medical practice history are part of an effort by the NRSC to dig up information about his background and hurt his chances in the upcoming GOP primary.

“In my 30 years practicing medicine, I’ve learned that people are the most important currency. Why? Because personnel is policy,” Gunter said in the statement. “Sadly, when President Trump learns the truth that the NRSC is wasting Republican donor money to harass the children and neighbors of his former ambassador to seek out baseless nonsense, Steve Daines will end up in the same category as Michael Cohen, Anthony Scaramucci, and Mitch McConnell.”

“The good news is despite the continuous fact free scavenger hunt and absurd mission to spin incomplete ‘findings’ from decades ago, we will prevail and President Trump will ultimately succeed bigger and better than ever,” he continued.

In a statement, the NRSC hit back at Gunter, targeting him for previously having a Democratic voter registration in California.

“I’m not sure why California Democrat Jeff Gunter is blaming NRSC for his patients saying he is a bad doctor,” NRSC communications director Mike Berg said. “I’m praying for his patients.”

More and more candidates are running for Senate seats and other high offices without prior political experience, lacking a legislative voting record or other traditional areas of scrutiny for a politician. That means they’re putting more emphasis on private-sector experience — and inviting more scrutiny of business, medical and other career history, particularly in competitive Senate races. Nevada is one of several Senate races this year, along with Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and others, where a Republican challenger is running for their first elected office.

Gunter’s practice, SummitMD, has 22 locations listed on its website across Arizona, Texas, California and Nevada, and those practices enjoy considerably better reviews on Yelp and Google than Gunter does on his personal page, ranging from 3.6 to 5.0 stars in locations with at least 25 reviews.

“Dr. Gunter does all the surgery and is very professional, personable, knowledgeable,” one Google reviewer wrote under one of his Nevada practices last year. “Would recommend highly.”

Gunter’s clinic was the subject of a medical malpractice complaint in California in 2022 — a suit in which the plaintiff alleged that an assistant caused a cotton swab dipped in an acidic solution to drip into her eye and suffered injuries as a result. The defendants — Gunter was not named among them — denied all the allegations and the plaintiff later requested the case be dismissed. Steven Brandwein, an attorney for the plaintiff, said the case was resolved and that a confidentiality agreement prevented further comment.

The Senate candidate has been embraced by some prominent figures in the MAGA movement but is seen as an underdog in his race against retired Army Capt. Sam Brown, who lost a 2022 primary for Senate to former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt but is backed by the NRSC this time around. The one true wild card in the race is Donald Trump, who has yet to weigh in on the contest, one of the lone contested Senate battleground races where he has not endorsed. The election is set for June 11, and Trump is scheduled to hold a Las Vegas rally Sunday.

In ads, Gunter has touted himself as the most-MAGA candidate in the contest and has labeled himself “110 percent pro-Trump.” He’s also attacked Brown as “Scam Brown.” Gunter’s rival initially did not endorse Trump this election cycle, but Brown did back him prior to the Iowa caucuses.

Brown’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Gunter also brings into the race a scathing report about him authored by the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General, which found in a 2021 report that he fostered a “threatening and intimidating environment” at the embassy, adding the then-ambassador’s “frequent failure to respect diplomatic protocol or to coordinate with the Icelandic Government” led American diplomats to work around him during his tenure in office.

Responding to the OIG report, Erica Knight, a Gunter spokesperson, disputed in a statement to Politico last year that then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ever had to take action against him and added that embassy staff worked remotely during the pandemic, adding, “thanks to his leadership the team had zero U.S. embassy infections and zero U.S. embassy deaths.”

In another story to emerge from his ambassadorship, a dozen individuals familiar with the matter, including diplomats, government officials and others, told CBS News in 2020 that Gunter, “paranoid” about his personal security, sought special permission to carry a firearm and requested door-to-door armored transport service.

Gunter was nominated for the ambassadorship after donating $100,000 to Trump’s political apparatus in 2016, plus another $100,000 to his inaugural committee, and he has been a prodigious donor to conservative candidates, campaign finance records show. Much of his wealth stems from his medical practice, which he valued at up to $25 million in his financial disclosure.

“We need physicians to set our healthcare policy, not Washington bureaucrats and politicians,” Gunter says on his campaign issues page, adding, “I treated, healed and saved countless lives. And if there is one thing I know for certain, if you mix politics with medicine — you get politics, not patient care.”

For angered patients, though, little was held back.

“I never wrote a Yelp review in my life,” one upset patient wrote on the Yelp page for Gunter’s clinic in Lancaster, California, “but this time my review may save [someone] else’s life.”

A 2014 BuzzFeed news report detailed that the rise of such review sites like RateMDs.com were rattling the medical community and were seemingly being utilized by patients as “an alternative to costly and frustrating malpractice suits.”

Not all reviews were so brutal. A 4.5 star review on RateMDs from April 2007 said Gunter was a “little rushed between patients, but otherwise A-1.” A five-star rating on the site from July 2013 urged patients to “Just [understand] he is not a chatty type person.”

“He is a nice man and is at the top of his game,” this person wrote. “BUSY because he is good. … ASK questions when he addresses you. If you don’t then he will leave.”

Overall, the results were more positive on Yelp and Google, though negative reviews were interspersed. One patient wrote on Yelp in 2018 that she visited Gunter “about my acne and within just weeks of seeing him my skin is clear my life is better and i got a boyfriend 10/10.”

But the passionate feelings behind the troubled experiences stood out.

“Worst doctor I have ever been to,” a Yelp reviewer wrote in 2014. “Do not waste your time or money. Very impersonal. Walks in the room and is out in 5 minutes. Doesn’t answer any of your questions thoroughly. … Worst experience I have ever had with a doctor. Not worth his reputation WHATSOEVER.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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