Oz’s Ties to Turkey Under Attack in Pennsylvania Senate Race

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Mehmet Oz’s rivals in Pennsylvania’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate are stepping up their attacks on the famed heart surgeon’s ties to his parents’ native Turkey, raising it as a possible national security issue.

Oz, better known as TV’s Dr. Oz, has dismissed any suggestion that he poses a threat to national security and accused his opponents, particularly his GOP rival David McCormick, of carrying out “sectarian attacks “. If elected, Oz would be the country’s first Muslim senator.

Criticism of Oz and its ties to Turkey has mounted in the weeks since Oz was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, who remains deeply popular with conservative voters. As the state’s May 17 primary approaches, Oz is locked in a tight three-way race with McCormick, a former hedge fund CEO, and conservative activist Kathy Barnette, according to a recent Franklin & Marshall poll. Middle School.

Trump holds a rally with Oz in western Pennsylvania on Friday night, winning a big victory in the Republican Senate primary in Ohio. Trump nominee JD Vance, who will also appear at Friday’s rally, trailed in the polls before Trump’s last-minute endorsement propelled him to the top of the seven-man race.

Oz, who was born in the United States, holds Turkish nationality, served in the Turkish military and voted in the 2018 elections, but said he would give up his dual citizenship in Turkey if elected.

Former Trump secretary of state and CIA director Mike Pompeo, who backed McCormick in the race, told reporters on Friday that Oz owed an explanation about “the scope and depth of his relationship with the government. Turkish”.

As CIA director, Pompeo served side-by-side in the Trump administration with Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser who came to the attention of the Justice Department due to lucrative advisory work. which he and his company have carried out and which has benefited the Turkish government.

Oz also has financial ties.

In his financial disclosure report to the Senate, Oz disclosed property he owns in Turkey, assets from his late father’s estate that are linked to legal proceedings there, and an endorsement deal with Turkish Airlines, which is partly owned by the Turkish government.

In recent debates, McCormick – a decorated U.S. military veteran of the Gulf War – accused Oz of unnecessarily holding dual citizenship in Turkey and attempted to compare Oz’s service in the Turkish military to that of McCormick in the US Army.

Another rival, Carla Sands, a former Trump ambassador to Denmark who inherited a fortune in commercial real estate, suggested Oz has a dual loyalty, calling it “Turkey first”, as a coin drama about Trump’s “America First” philosophy of government.

Pushing back against McCormick’s attacks in March, Oz suggested his religion was being targeted, accusing McCormick of making “sectarian attacks” that are “reminiscent of insults made in the past against Catholics and Jews.”

Oz claimed that he served in the Turkish army as a young man to maintain his dual citizenship. He keeps it to this day, he said, so he has legal authority in Turkey to make healthcare decisions for his mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease.

Oz voted in the 2018 Turkish elections while at the New York consulate for meetings about his humanitarian work for Syrian refugees in Turkey, his campaign said.

He voted against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his campaign said, noting that it is not unusual for Americans with dual citizenship to vote in elections in other countries.

“Voting in an election is very different from being actively engaged in the political work of the Turkish government, in which Dr Oz was never involved,” the Oz campaign said.

Senate historians have been unable to find a U.S. senator who has retained dual citizenship.

David Laufman, the former head of the counterintelligence section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said he views a national security issue as individuals and organizations that pose terrorist threats, cybersecurity threats or economic security threats, or are involved in U.S.-directed influence operations on behalf of foreign powers.

“I think we have to be careful not to categorize any American as a national security risk simply because of their ties to a foreign country,” Laufman said in an interview.

Edward Ahmed Mitchell, deputy director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the nonprofit does not comment on specific campaigns. But generally, he said, the organization saw attacks on one aspect of a candidate — like their place of birth — as a substitute for a more overtly racist attack, like their race or religion.

He pointed to the question – from Trump and others – of whether Barack Obama, the country’s first black president, was born in the United States.

“It’s a pattern that’s repeated and repeats in multiple campaigns,” Mitchell said.

Flynn – Trump’s former national security adviser – notably gathered unfavorable information about Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and is accused by Erdogan of attempting a coup, and wrote a November 2016 opinion piece that lambasted the United States for granting Gulen “refuge” while Turkey pushed to extradite him.

Flynn was ousted in the first month of the Trump administration after the White House said he lied about his Russian contacts during the transition period. He later admitted in a criminal case brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that his documents filed with the Justice Department when he registered as a foreign agent for his Turkish work included “false statements and omissions”.


Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.


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Sharon P. Juarez