Erdogan’s and the Muslim Brotherhood’s gambit for a Pennsylvania U.S. Senate seat

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Cengiz Oz, the quack medical doctor whose television career was advanced by Oprah Winfrey, is not so much interested in representing Pennsylvania in the Senate as he is in helping to deliver to his friend, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Turkey, the ultimate prize of Turkish opposition leader Fethullah Gulen. Gulen is wanted by Erdogan as a “terrorist,” a term the Turkish dictator tosses around to describe anyone who opposes his regime. Oz, who would become the first Muslim in the Senate should he be elected, has been silent on what he thinks about Erdogan’s policy of scrapping Turkey’s secular constitution and way-of-life in favor of an Islamist society.

Since 1999, Gulen, an Islamic cleric and businessman who opposes Erdogan’s Islamicization of Turkish politics and society, has lived in exile in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. From his place of exile, Gulen has not only enjoyed the protection of the Central Intelligence Agency as one of its guarded political asylees, but the political protection afforded by the state’s two senators, Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey, who Oz is hoping to replace. Oz, a dual Turkish-U.S. citizen and, until recently, a longtime resident of New Jersey, faces Pennsylvania Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman in this year’s election.

Oz faced questions about his loyalty to Erdogan in the hotly-contested GOP primary in Pennsylvania. Oz, who was endorsed by Donald Trump, narrowly beat out hedge fund executive David McCormick by 940 votes. McCormick, a U.S. Army veteran, charged during the primary that Oz’s loyalty to the United States was questionable considering his Turkish citizenship and his former service in the Turkish military. Oz has stated that he will renounce his Turkish citizenship, but only after he wins the Senate seat. Oz is playing the same game as the Calgary, Alberta-born Ted Cruz, who won his Senate seat in Texas in 2012 but waited two years to renounce his Canadian citizenship. Cruz and Oz, both far-right Republicans, appear to be gaming the American political system by running for office in the United States while also being citizens of other countries.

Oz has shown himself to be a massive manipulator of U.S. election law. Although he has lived for 20 years in a huge estate in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, that overlooks the Hudson River and the Manhattan skyline, Oz now claims to be a resident of Pennsylvania. In 2020, he established residency at his wife’s parents’ home in Bryn Athan in the Philadelphia suburbs and obtained a Pennsylvania driver’s license. Although Oz voted in Pennsylvania’s GOP primary using his in-laws’ Philly suburban address, he continues to appear on voter rolls in Bergen County, New Jersey, where he last voted in November 2020. While shrugging off allegations that he is a political carpetbagger, Oz also claims to have maintained his Turkish citizenship in order to make health decisions for his mother, who continues to live in Turkey and who Oz claims has Alzheimer’s.

Carla Sands, Trump’s former ambassador to Denmark and a GOP candidate for the Pennsylvania Senate seat, called Oz a “Turkey First” candidate. Trump’s former CIA director and secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, endorsed McCormick in the primary. Pompeo, prior to the Pennsylvania primary, stated ” . . . we and the people of Pennsylvania and the Americans who he [Oz] will be representing as one of the 100 members of the United States Senate voting on important national security matters need to understand the scope and depth of his relationship with the Turkish government.” Pompeo was correct in questioning Oz’s ties to Turkey. They run wide and deep.

Oz voted in the June 2018 Turkish election at the Turkish Consulate General in New York. Oz claims he voted for the candidate of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Muharrem Ince. However, the entire election was problematic as it was held following constitutional changes forced through parliament following Erdogan’s self-coup of July 15, 2016. Those changes gave Erdogan wide-sweeping powers, including elimination of the post of prime minister and transferring those powers to Erdogan. The 2018 election was held under an extended “state of emergency” declared by Erdogan following the 2016 “coup.” Government censorship of the media was the rule during the 2018 campaign, with state television not covering opposition candidates’ speeches and events. Opposition supporters were routinely physically attacked by Erdogan supporters without a peep of criticism coming from Oz.

Ince, who won a mere 30 percent of the vote against Erdogan’s 53 percent, subsequently abandoned the CHP to form his own vanity party, the Homeland Party. Erdogan, like his friend Vladimir Putin in Russia, permits “opposition” candidates, but only those who support his policies. Oz, perhaps the highest profile Turkish citizen in the United States, gave Erdogan a major seal of approval for his contrived election by being photographed casting a ballot at the Turkish diplomatic mission in New York. Ince’s campaign was as lackluster as one could be against the Erdogan political machine.

Oz is so well known in Turkey that he appears on Turkish state television as a paid spokesman for Turkish Airlines, the Turkish state-owned carrier. Oz is an investor in a Turkish real estate firm that leases property to the Turkish Ministry of Education. A few months after voting in the Turkish election, Oz appeared with Erdogan and his wife, Emine Erdogan, at the 9th Turkey Investment Conference held in New York on September 27, 2018. The conference was sponsored by the Turkey-U.S. Business Council (TAIK), an organization that acts as a Turkish government intelligence and public relations proxy directly influencing the U.S. government and media on issues ranging from the Turkish genocide of Armenians, which Erdogan says never occurred, to U.S. support for Syrian Kurds, who Erdogan claims are “terrorists.” On September 30, 2019, Oz was again on stage in New York before another Turkish conference, the World Turkish Business Council (DTIK). Oz was the “special guest” of the Turkish American National Steering Committee (TASC)-Diyanet Center of America (DCA) conference held in New York on October 25, 2019.

TASC, co-chaired by Halil Mutlu, Erdogan’s cousin, stands accused of assisting the Turkish embassy in Washington in the compilation of intelligence dossiers on Gulen, his supporters in the United States, and other critics of Turkish government policy, particularly on Oz’s fellow Turkish-American celebrity, NBA star Enes Kanter, whose father was imprisoned by Erdogan for being a supporter of Gulen. Others subject to surveillance by TASC and the Turkish embassy include prominent critics in the Armenian, Greek, Kurdish, Assyrian, Circassian, and Jewish communities. TASC’s treasurer, Murat Güzel, has reportedly been investigated by the FBI for illegal foreign involvement in U.S. political campaigns. DCA is operated by the Turkish government’s Directorate of Religious Affairs. Diyanet operates a massive mosque in Lanham, Maryland, just outside of Washington. It also runs the Bergen Diyanet Mosque and Cultural Center in Cliffside Park regularly attended by Oz. Diyanet’s sermons not only push a constant pro-Erdogan theme but are also, in some cases, written by the Turkish government.

In 2011, Oz had been elected to the High Advisory Council of DTIK, a branch of the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK) of the Turkish government. Oz has so many ties to Turkish state-owned enterprises and organizations, critics could rightly argue that Oz, himself, is also state-owned by Turkey. That was borne out by a tweet from the Turkish Embassy in Washington on March 30, 2021, seemingly supporting Oz’s dubious claim to roots in Pennsylvania: “Did you know Dr. Mehmet Oz, the renowned cardiac surgeon, educator, author and TV personality, is a Turkish American? Dr. Oz’s parents emigrated from Turkey in the 1950s, and while attending Penn Medicine and the Wharton School, he served in the Turkish army.” Oz’s Senate candidacy has been publicly supported by Hasan Murat Mercan, the Turkish ambassador in Washington.

Oz has studiously avoided commenting on key foreign policy issues, especially those that affect Turkey. In 2018, Oz appeared on Turkish state TV to heap praise on Erdogan’s policy in the Syrian civil war. Of course, it is well known that Turkey was supporting Islamicists in their war against the Bashar al Assad regime in Syria, including organizations linked to Al Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and the Muslim Brotherhood. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has strong links to the Muslim Brotherhood, especially its branches in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Qatar.

Oz has been silent on Erdogan vetoing NATO membership for Sweden and Finland, as well as the Turkish dictator’s publicly-stated regret that Greece is a member of NATO. Oz has also refrained from commenting on Erdogan’s refusal to join Western sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. Oz has failed to weigh in on the plight of the Kurds of southeastern Turkey, Syria, and Iraq as they face continued military attacks by Turkish forces. Oz has similarly ignored the issue of Ottoman Turkey’s genocide of the Christian Greek, Armenian, and Assyrian people and of Erdogan’s endorsement of that genocide. Oz has also been pointedly mum on Erdogan turning the Hagia Sophia, the former holy see of Byzantium in Istanbul, into a fully-functioning mosque. In an ethnically-diverse state like Pennsylvania, Oz’s links to Turkey and Erdogan will not play well in the Greek, Ukrainian, Armenian, Kurdish, Finnish, and Swedish communities in the commonwealth. And memories of Oz’s actions remain vivid with certain communities insulted in the past by Oz. For example, in 2008, Oz got up and walked out at a Ellis Island Medal of Honor ceremony during remarks about the Armenian genocide made by an Armenian descendant of its survivors. Oz has admitted that his grandmother, born during the Ottoman reign, was a deeply religious member of the Islamic faith. It should be remembered that the genocide of the Christians of the Ottoman Empire was carried out in the name of Islam.

Aram Hamparian, the executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, wants Oz criminally investigated by the U.S. Justice Department for failing to register as a foreign agent of the Turkish government, saying that Oz is a threat to “our nation’s national security interests.” Mark Momjian, formerly the chairman of the Armenian Center at Columbia University, told NBC News, “No one in this community will ever vote for Dr. Oz . . . We are convinced that he is part of a denial campaign when it comes to the Armenian genocide.” Harut Sassounian of the United Armenian Fund said that Oz could cost Republicans any past support from the Armenian community, stressing, “After Biden recognized the genocide [of Armenians], 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 TV 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.” The Greek-American group Hellenic Leaders has tweeted: “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.”

Oz can dissemble and evade all he wants, but his ties to Erdogan, including his regime’s deep-seated kleptocracy and links between the AKP and the Muslim Brotherhood, do not sit well among a large cross section of Pennsylvania’s or America’s voters. From “Little Kurdistan” in Nashville, Tennessee, home to 15,000 Kurdish-Americans, to Turlock, California, where 20,000 Assyrian-Americans live, the stench of Oz, Erdogan, and the Turkish genocide denialists is permeating their view of the Republican Party as a support mechanism for foreign dictators. Revulsion to Oz’s candidacy may be instrumental in swinging elections to the Democrats in states with large Armenian, Greek, Kurdish, and Assyrian communities. Anti-Ukrainian statements by J. D. Vance, Oz’s GOP Senate candidate counterpart in Ohio, are having repercussions not only in northeastern Ohio, where the Ukrainian population is politically strong, but across the state line in western Pennsylvania, which also has a large Ukrainian population. Add to the mix, Oz and his links to the Putin-friendly Erdogan, and the Republicans could be in for a rough time holding the Pennsylvania and Ohio Senate seats that are currently held by them. Anti-Putin and anti-Erdogan votes among the various diasporas in Pennsylvania and Ohio may hand the Democrats two Senate seats.

For the people of Saylorsburg, Gulen is not who Erdogan charges him to be: the leader of the “Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).” In fact, Gulen was the target of a 2016 criminal plot by Trump’s disgraced national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, an unregistered foreign agent at the time of the Turkish government, to kidnap the cleric and exfiltrate him to Turkey. That plot, hatched at a meeting in New York’s infamous 21 Club, a longtime Mafia hive, is believed to have involved other members of the Trump presidential campaign, including Flynn’s son. Oz should be pressed on what he knew and when he knew it about that plot and other Erdogan intelligence operations in the United States, including the May 16, 2017 assault by Turkish agents on anti-Erdogan protesters in front of the Turkish embassy in Washington.

Oz is yet another example of Trump World selling out the United States under the gaslit banner of “Make America Great Again.” No one with any viable sensory abilities should fall for the quackery—medical and political—spewed forth by Dr. Oz.

Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.

Copyright © 2022

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist, author and nationally-distributed columnist. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).

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