Some security and foreign policy experts are raising questions about a 2018 photograph showing Pennsylvania Senate candidate Mehmet Oz voting in that year’s Turkish presidential election.

Oz holds dual citizenship in in the United States and Turkey; his parents moved from the latter to the former in the 1960s. The celebrity doctor, who is running for Pennsylvania Senate with the support of former President Donald Trump, has promised that he will renounce his Turkish citizenship if he wins retiring Republican Senator Pat Toomey’s seat in November. 

As a youth, Oz spent long stretches living in Turkey and he served in the Turkish Army for 60 days four decades ago, allowing him to maintain his citizenship in that country. He has publicly discussed availing himself of that status so that he can help care for his mother who still lives there and suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. 

Oz’s financial disclosure forms indicate that he has property holdings in the nation as well. He also recorded an endorsement of Turkish Airlines in 2018.

In the eyes of some observers, the candidate’s ties to the country straddling southeastern Asia and southeastern Europe raise three main questions: First, would they jeopardize his hope of obtaining a federal security clearance should he get elected to the Senate? Second, would his real-estate holdings and his Turkish Airlines contract put him in a difficult situation should he want to criticize the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyep Erdogan? Third, does Oz take the view that the Turkish government’s deportations of and violence against Armenians during World War I constitute a genocide as the U.S. government has officially recognized?

Kel McClanahan, executive director of the nonprofit National Security Counselors, told ABC News this week that Oz set off a “giant, flashing red light” in voting in another nation’s election and that he “would not put good odds on [Oz] getting a clearance anywhere.”

Regarding his financial interests in Turkey, Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Steven Cook said, “It is the nature of the Turkish system and authoritarian systems more generally that folks who do not want to be targeted by the state kowtow to leaders or keep their mouth shut. There are many examples of people who have dared to criticize Erdogan who have been forcibly divested.” 

Another expert quoted by ABC, national security lawyer Sean Bigley, suggested that Oz should consider ending “financial ties with any entity of the Turkish government.” 

Last month, NBC News came out with a report quoting Aram Hamparian, the executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, and others who expressed concern that Oz has not explicitly recognized the treatment of Armenians by Turkey in 1915 and 1916 as a genocide. 

The report quoted Oz’s campaign as responding that “Dr. Mehmet Oz opposes genocide and the murder of innocent people in all forms” and that “the evils of World War I should be commemorated.” 

As of press time, Oz’s campaign did not return an email from The Pennsylvania Daily Star seeking comment. His campaign has said publicly that the candidate participated in the Turkish Consulate General in New York City to vote against Erdogan and that “voting in an election is far different from being actively engaged in the political work of the Turkish government, which Dr. Oz has never been involved with.” The campaign has also pointed out a January 2022 public appearance during which Oz said he “would be the harshest critic of Erdogan.”

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Dr. Mehmet Oz” by Dr. Mehmet Oz.