Oz’s ties with Turkey attacked in Pennsylvania Senate race – NBC10 Philadelphia

Mehmet Oz’s rivals in Pennsylvania’s Republican US Senate primary are escalating their attacks on the famed heart surgeon’s ties to his parents’ home country of Turkey, citing it as a possible national security issue.

Oz, best known as Dr. TV’s Oz, has dismissed all suggestions he is a threat to national security and has accused his opponents, particularly GOP rival David McCormick, of carrying out “bigoted attacks”. If elected, Oz would become the nation’s first Muslim Senator.

Criticism of Oz and his ties to Turkey has mushroomed in the weeks after Oz garnered the backing of former President Donald Trump, who remains hugely popular with conservative voters. With the May 17 state primary fast approaching, Oz is locked in a tight three-way battle with McCormick, a former hedge fund CEO, and conservative activist Kathy Barnette, according to a recent poll by Franklin & Marshall College.

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

Oz, who was born in the United States, has Turkish citizenship, served in Turkey’s military and voted in the 2018 election but says he would give up his dual citizenship in Turkey if he is elected.

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

As CIA director, Pompeo served side-by-side in the Trump administration with Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, who scrutinized the Justice Department for lucrative consulting work he and his firm did that benefited the Turkish government.

Oz also has financial connections.

In his financial report to the Senate, Oz disclosed property he owns in Turkey, assets from his late father’s estate that are tied up in court cases there, and an endorsement agreement with Turkish Airlines that is partially owned by the Turkish government.

In recent debates, McCormick – a distinguished US Army combat veteran from the Gulf War – has accused Oz of needlessly holding dual citizenship in Turkey and has attempted to compare Oz’s service in the Turkish military to McCormick’s service in the US Army.

Another rival, Carla Sands, Trump’s former ambassador to Denmark, who inherited a commercial real estate fortune, has hinted that Oz has dual allegiance, calling him “Turkey First” in a nod to Trump’s “America First” philosophy of government.

In fending off McCormick’s attacks in March, Oz hinted that his religion was being targeted and accused McCormick of committing “biased attacks” that “recall past insults about Catholics and Jews.”

Oz has claimed he served in the Turkish military as a young man in order to retain his dual citizenship. He still keeps it to this day, he said, so he has legal authority in Turkey to make decisions about his mother’s health care, who has Alzheimer’s disease.

Oz voted in the 2018 Turkish election while he was in Turkey for meetings at the consulate in New York about his humanitarian work on behalf of Syrian refugees, his campaign said.

He voted against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his campaign said, noting that it’s not uncommon for dual-citizen Americans to vote in elections in other countries.

“Voting in an election is very different from taking an active part in the political work of the Turkish government, which Dr. Oz was never involved,” reads Oz’s campaign.

Senate historians have been unable to find any US Senator who retained dual citizenship.

David Laufman, the former chief of the Counterintelligence Branch of the Department of National Security at the Justice Department, said he considers a national security issue to be individuals and organizations that pose terrorist threats, cybersecurity threats or economic security threats, or are engaged in targeted influence operations in the United States on behalf of foreign powers.

“I think we have to be careful about classifying Americans as a national security risk just 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 in general, he said, the organization has seen attacks on one aspect of a candidate – such as their place of birth – as a substitute for a more overt racial attack such as their race or religion.

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

“It’s a pattern that has been repeated and is being repeated in multiple campaigns,” Mitchell said.

Flynn — Trump’s former national security adviser — has been gathering adverse information, among other things Fethullah Gulena Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania who is blamed by Erdogan for a failed coup attempt and who wrote an opinion piece in November 2016 criticizing the US for granting Gülen a “safe haven” while Turkey on his extradition was urgent.

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 criminal proceedings Special Counsel Robert Mueller alleged that when he registered as a foreign agent for his Turkish work, his Justice Department filings contained “false statements and omissions.”

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

All the candidates, issues, and key dates voters in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware need to know are on NBC10 Decision 2022 Side. You’ll find tools to help you navigate the midterm election, including when to vote and who will be on your ballots in the November primary and general election.

https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/decision-2022/ozs-ties-to-turkey-attacked-in-pennsylvanias-senate-race/3231051/ Oz’s ties with Turkey attacked in Pennsylvania Senate race – NBC10 Philadelphia

Sarah Y. Kim

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