The GOP candidate for US Senate in Pennsylvania has spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and spoke out against protections for voting rights.
Pennsylvania Republican Senate nominee Mehmet Oz opposes any federal efforts to protect voting rights and democracy, based on a review of his statements by the American Independent Foundation.
Oz, a longtime television personality who moved from New Jersey to run against the state's Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman for the Senate seat left open by the retirement of Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, has agreed with former President Donald Trump's baseless and disproven claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
Fetterman has made "safeguarding our democracy" a priority of his platform, stating on his website, "In the Senate, I will fight like hell to expand voting rights and push for reforms that get big money out of politics and prevent politicians from picking their voters through partisan gerrymandering."
Oz's campaign did not respond to an inquiry for this story.
Supports Trump's "big lie" conspiracy theory
Before being declared the winner of the Pennsylvania Republican Senate primary in June, Oz would not say that Joe Biden had legitimately won the 2020 election. In a February interview with CNN, he did not directly answer a question about it and said only, "Joe Biden is unfortunately the President and he has been a disaster"
On his campaign website, Oz touts an endorsement from Trump, who praises him as "Pro-Life, very strong on Crime, the Border, Election Fraud, our Great Military, and our Vets, Tax Cuts, and will always fight for and support our under-siege Second Amendment."
Trump has continued to push debunked claims that the 2020 election was rife with fraud, and Oz has supported his claims.
"I have discussed it with President Trump and we cannot move on," Oz said during an April primary debate. "We have to be serious about what happened in 2020, and we won't be able to address that until we can really look under the hood."
Continues to make false claims about election fraud
In a March interview with conservative radio host Chris Stigall, Oz claimed, "There was definitely fraud, and I travel around the state and people always take an opportunity to come up and tell me these horror stories of things that happen, and there's fraud in every election."
He spoke out against Act 77, a bipartisan state law passed in 2019 that allowed people to sign up to receive absentee ballots automatically every year, falsely claiming that the law "gave absentee ballots to people who didn't even know they were getting them."
In an interview with the pro-Trump Right Side Broadcasting Network in February, Oz claimed: "In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, under the cover of COVID, they did all kinds of shenanigans, which without question invited mischievousness … I'm trying to be polite here, but there was, and I've heard countless times, specific evidence of fraud from people who were eyewitnesses to it."
The Brennan Center For Justice, which has reviewed research into several election cycles, has found that actual fraud in recent elections is in fact "very rare."
An Associated Press examination found just 26 potential voter fraud cases in Pennsylvania arising from the 2020 election. According to the New York Times' calculations, Biden won the state by a margin of 81,660 votes.
While Oz opposes the federal government taking "control of our elections away from the states," he praised an effort by GOP strategist and Fox News contributor Karl Rove to mount a partisan scheme to "audit" elections across the country.
"We've been working at the national level — Karl Rove, I've spoken to about this, who's — they're putting together programs for us to be able to audit," Oz told attendees at a campaign event in February in Somerset, Pennsylvania. "'Cause it's very hard to do this at a local level. You have to have people with resources and with a program that we can use to grow, both the Republican base, but also make sure we can monitor the elections."
Supports policies that make it harder to vote
Like other Republicans across the country, Oz has promoted claims that voter identification laws are vital to stop people from committing voter impersonation fraud, which are unsupported by evidence. Oz claims on his website that they "ensure safe and secure elections," but laws requiring photo identification to vote have been shown to discourage turnout, especially among voters of color.
At the event in Somerset, Oz called for a constitutional amendment in Pennsylvania "which I will do whatever I can in Washington to help make sure it happens, that we have voter ID mandatory. Eight-five percent — the Democrats want voter ID, they want their votes to count too. I don't know how it's possible that we don't have that."
He falsely suggested that ballot drop boxes for absentee voters, which are overwhelmingly popular, are insecure and should be eliminated.
Does not support federal campaign finance and election reform
In March 2021, House Democrats passed the For the People Act, which would expand voter registration and access, prevent partisan gerrymandering, improve campaign finance disclosure, boost election security, and tighten government ethics rules. It has not passed in the Senate due to Republican opposition.
Oz told Pittsburgh public radio station WESA that he opposes the bill: "I do not support the federal government trying to involve itself in state and local election laws."
Oz has benefitted from undisclosed "dark money," which would be subject to regulation under the For the People Act, receiving over $3 million in financial support from a super PAC called American Leadership Action, according to the Daily Beast.
After Trump falsely claimed to have won the 2020 election and encouraged his supporters to mount a massive protest in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, thousands of them rioted at the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to prevent certification of the Electoral College results.
The riots caused millions of dollars' worth of damage to public property, impeded the joint session of Congress, and led to the deaths of law enforcement officials. Oz has downplayed the severity of it and denied that participants sought to impede democracy.
"I don't believe there was an insurrection," he said in the March interview with Stigall. "I believe it was individuals coming from different places. I mean, the last words said from the president that I'm aware of was, you know, 'Go in peace.' So I think some folks broke the law and they need to be dealt with, effectively. We don't want people doing that. But there were innocent people as well."
Trump's "Go in peace" message came in a video several hours after his supporters launched the attacks in which he praised them and invited them to leave town without arrest: "We love you. You're very special. You've seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel, but go home and go home in peace."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.