Members of the Armenian-American and Greek-American communities expressed concerns this weekend over celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz’s ties to Turkish autocrat Recep Tayyip Erdogan, responding to a pro-Democrat ad calling him a “close ally” of the Islamist president.
Oz is running for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania as a Republican, a decision that baffled fired staffers and Pennsylvanians alike given his extensive record of supporting left-wing causes and his refusal to give up Turkish citizenship. If elected, Oz would likely be the first dual-citizen Senator and the first Muslim in the upper chamber of Congress.
Armenian- and Greek Americans echoed worries about Oz’s relationship with Erdogan presented in a pro-Democrat Super PAC ad this weekend, dropping before the 107th anniversary of the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek genocides by the Ottoman Empire, observed on April 24. The genocide has caused some tensions in the Pennsylvania Senate campaign as Oz has not categorically called the mass extermination of 75 percent of the Armenian population a “genocide.” Approximately 450,000 to 750,000 Greek citizens and 150,000 to 300,000 Assyrians were also killed during the genocide. The government of Turkey denies that the genocide is a genocide and has posed bizarre theories that the Armenians killed themselves.
In addition to his relationship with Erdogan, Oz’s dual Turkish and U.S. citizenship recently became an issue in the Pennsylvania primary after Oz reportedly said he would forego certain security clearances, if elected, in order to keep his Turkish citizenship. However, Oz walked backed those comments after facing political backlash.
“I’m committing that before I am sworn in as the next U.S. senator for Pennsylvania I will only be a U.S. citizen,” Oz said.
A pro-Democrat Super PAC recently released an ad blasting Oz for his ties to Turkey, which saw support from Armenian-American and Greek-American leaders.
VIDEO📽️: Pennsylvania GOP Senate candidate Mehmet Oz is a close ally of Turkish Dictator Erdogan and does work for his American propaganda arm. He also served in the Turkish military, has refused to give up his Turkish citizenship and is endorsed by Trump.
— Really American 🇺🇸 (@ReallyAmerican1) April 22, 2022
The Really American PAC’s ad criticized Oz for serving in the Turkish military and speaking at an event hosted by the Turkish American steering committee.
“Who exactly is Pennsylvania Senate candidate, Mehmet Oz? Oz served in the Turkish military and has defiantly refused to renounce his Turkish citizenship,” the ad said. “He’s friendly with Turkey’s authoritarian leader Recep [Tayyip] Erdogan, who terrorizes the Kurds and routinely jails journalists and political opponents.”
The ad also features Selahattin Demirtas, a Kurdish-Turkish presidential candidate who had to campaign from prison and is still behind bars.
The ad continued:
In 2019. Oz was the featured speaker at an event hosted by the Turkish American steering committee, Erdogan’s U.S. based propaganda machine. At that event Oz sat with their treasure Murat Güzel, who the FBI investigated for meddling in U.S. politics. And after Erdogan’s bodyguards viciously assaulted and hospitalized Americans who were non violently protesting in Washington, DC. They hired the organization’s co-chair to represent them in court. Why is Mehmet Oz helping a foreign dictator’s propaganda firm? Why won’t he renounce his foreign citizenship? What else is he hiding? Pennsylvania. Mehmet Oz can’t be trusted. Keep him out of the Senate in 2022.
The Greek-American advocacy group Hellenic Leaders reposted the Really American PAC’s attack ad on its Twitter page.
“#WhoIsOz? Here’s your answer,” Hellenic Leaders tweeted.
— HellenicLeaders (@HellenicLeaders) April 22, 2022
Along with Hellenic Leaders, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) amplified the pro-Democrat Oz attack ad.
The ANCA warned against “foreign manipulation” when it reposted Really American’s attack ad.
“The ANCA’s committed to protecting the integrity of Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate seat from foreign manipulation,” the ANCA tweeted.
The ANCA’s committed to protecting the integrity of Pennsylvania’s US Senate seat from foreign manipulation. https://t.co/8SaZotFMqv
— ANCA (@ANCA_DC) April 22, 2022
With both Greek-American and Armenian-American leaders rallying against Oz, this shows Oz could be a serious liability for the Republican Party in the general election. These comments come after reports that Armenian-Americans were worried Oz could potentially mainstream denial of the Armenian genocide.
United Armenian Fund founder Harut Sassounian worried that Oz’s celebrity status, coupled with Turkey’s political influence, could lead to genocide denial. Sassounian told NBC News:
After Biden recognized [the Armenian genocide], finally, after all these years of efforts, we’re really concerned about Oz, because we know the power of Turkish lobbying and Turkish interests in U.S. politics. Dr. Oz has been on T.V. for years, he’s a well-known person, he’s a celebrity, and Armenians everywhere know he’s of Turkish origin. So it’s caught the eye of Armenians in all 50 states.
In response, Oz spokesperson Brittany Yanick said, “Dr. Mehmet Oz opposes genocide and the murder of innocent people in all forms. The evils of World War I should be commemorated. Dr. Oz looks forward to those important discussions, as well as helping the three million people of Armenia today.”
Interestingly, the Oz campaign’s response does not explicitly say “Armenian genocide.”
April 24 marked the 107th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.