In a 2019 Turkish-language interview, Mehmet Oz seemed to be touting his collaboration with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Pennsylvania Republican Senate nominee Mehmet Oz and his campaign have spent the past several months downplaying his ties to authoritarian Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Erdoğan and his government have been roundly criticized by international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and the Brookings Institution, and accused of purging and torturing enemies since coming to power eight years ago.
After jumping into the race for retiring Sen. Pat Toomey's (R-PA) open seat in February, Oz told the Washington Post he wasn't politically involved in Turkey.
"I hadn't even really gotten engaged in any of this until I decided to run for the Senate, and I'd never been politically involved in Turkey in any capacity," he said.
In 2014, Oz was photographed shaking hands with Erdoğan at a dinner in New York honoring the newly elected Turkish president.
And in a 2019 interview with a Turkish-language television program, Oz admitted to having met with "our leader in Turkey" and discussing "the question of how I can help Turkey as a representative."
According to a professional translation, Oz said:
Here’s my thoughts: first of all, the world. When we look around, we have a lot of troubles and there are universal issues. We have current troubles and I want to go beyond the boundaries of the TV program ["The Dr. Oz Show"] and there are things that I need to do to help in greater ways, more personally. This includes political issues. In addition to working in television, without quitting that, I am looking to find what else I can do. Offers come in from left and right. The American government has requested from me. There is a health council. I got involved in that as well, to help the president. Similarly, I met with our leader in Turkey. There is the question of how I can help Turkey as a representative. God has done me many favors, but at the same time, his favors come with duties as well and I don’t want to lose these duties. I don’t want to forget them.
Former President Donald Trump appointed Oz to the President's Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition in 2018. In March, President Joe Biden removed him from the post for violating ethics rules.
Oz has dual citizenship with the United States and Turkey, and he voted in Turkey's 2018 presidential election. Campaign spokesperson Brittany Yanick told ABC News that Oz voted for Erdoğan's unsuccessful opponent, Muharrem Ince.
In April, Oz told Jewish News Syndicate that he does not support Erdoğan.
"I don't know if he can be trusted. The Turkish government's policies have been problematic for quite a while," Oz said when asked about improving Turkey-Israel relations.
Some rival Republicans launched xenophobia attacks against Oz for his Turkish citizenship during Pennsylvania's GOP Senate primary. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried to boost his favored candidate, hedge fund millionaire David McCormick, by questioning why Oz devoted the "time and energy to vote in a Turkish election but not in an American election," referencing a 2018 GOP primary in New Jersey that Oz had reportedly skipped.
The Oz campaign did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.
Oz is trailing Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in the polls.
Published with permission of the American Independent Foundation.