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

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Mehmet Oz’s rivals in Pennsylvania’s competitive 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 opponent, former hedge fund CEO David McCormick, of committing ” sectarian attacks”. If elected, Oz would be the nation’s first Muslim senator, although Oz did not campaign on this stage.

Criticism of Oz and its ties to Turkey has mounted in the weeks since Oz was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, who remains popular with conservative voters. With the state’s May 17 primary in sight, Trump held a rally with Oz in western Pennsylvania on Friday night, winning a big victory in the Ohio Republican Senate primary for Trump’s nominee, JD Vance.

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”.

Americans should know if Oz is “fit for duty,” Pompeo said.

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 to Turkey.

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.

Trump, in an hour-long speech at Friday night’s rally, attacked McCormick by name for the first time, saying he had been with a company that “handled money for communist China.”

McCormick is, Trump said, the “candidate of special interests and globalists and the Washington establishment” spending millions of dollars to defeat Oz and “ripping off the United States with bad trade deals and open borders.” This is the first time that Trump

Trump didn’t specifically mention the attacks on Oz’s ties to Turkey, but introduced Oz to the crowd as a ‘warrior’ and lifelong friend who has the best chance of winning the state seat. of the battlefield in the fall general election.

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 — such as their place of birth — as a substitute for a more overtly racist attack, such as on their race or religion.

Flynn – Trump’s former national security adviser – 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”.

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

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Follow AP for full midterm election coverage at apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections and on Twitter at twitter.com/ap—politics

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Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at twitter.com/timelywriter

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