Dr. Mehmet Oz faced a devastating wave of news on Wednesday as two separate stories broke that could threaten his bid to become the Republican Party’s nominee for a U.S. Senate seat out of Pennsylvania.
The first problematic story for Oz, who is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Turkey, came from an ABC News report about his political involvement in elections in Turkey.
“The television star has largely shied away from discussing his ties to Turkey, where he maintains citizenship, and dismissed criticism from political opponents that he harbors any so-called ‘dual loyalties,'” ABC News reported. “But a photograph of Oz casting a ballot in Turkey’s 2018 presidential election is rankling some national security experts — particularly after recently saying he has ‘never been politically involved in Turkey in any capacity.'”
Here is @DrOz, who claims to want to represent #Pennsylvania – a state he has very little connection with (I know, I’m from here) – in the Senate, voting in the 2018 Turkish presidential election. Source: @abcnews pic.twitter.com/mj5VRHZq28
— Michael Deibert (@michaelcdeibert) May 5, 2022
John V. Berry, a former government lawyer with expertise in federal security clearances, told ABC News, “The decision to vote in a foreign country’s election is problematic from a security clearance perspective.”
The report said that Oz’s campaign confirmed that the photo was real and that Oz did vote in Turkey’s 2018 elections.
Shortly after the ABC News report was published, the New York Post released a report about a group that is alleging that Oz violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by not registering as a foreign agent while he was doing work for Turkish Airlines, which is 49.12% owned by the Turkish government.
Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian wrote a letter Tuesday to Matthew G. Olsen, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, urging the Department of Justice to launch an investigation into the matter.
The letter stated in part:
Dr. Oz indisputably serves as public relations counsel, publicity agent, information service employee, or political consultant for Turkish Airlines. In 2017, Dr. Oz reportedly collaborated with Turkish Airlines on its “Fly Good Feel Good” project, which was designed to provide “an even more comfortable and healthy travel experience to its passengers.” …
More recently, Dr. Oz appeared in an advertising campaign for Turkish Airlines including in a four-minute informational video offering a medical seal of approval to the airline’s COVID-19 safety procedures.” These campaigns constituted informational materials disseminated in interstate commerce by the foreign agent on behalf of the foreign principal but did not include the conspicuous statement labeling them accordingly as is required by the statute.
“Dr. Oz clearly serves as a foreign agent on behalf of the foreign principal Turkish Airlines,” Hamparian concluded. “As you are also aware, the penalty for a willful violation of FARA is imprisonment for not more than five years, a fine of up to $250,000, or both. Certain violations are considered misdemeanors, with penalties of imprisonment of not more than six months, a fine of not more than $5,000, or both. We encourage you to fully investigate this matter.”
David Laufman, who oversaw the Justice Department’s FARA enforcement from 2014 to 2018, said that he believes that it “would be appropriate for [the Justice Department] to undertake logical, analytical and investigative steps to determine whether Dr. Oz acted as a public relations counsel or publicity agent in the United States on behalf of Turkish Airlines.”
“If he did, he likely would have an obligation to register unless he qualified for an exemption,” Laufman said. “In my experience, a foreign government ownership interest as high as 49.12 percent would contribute to a conclusion by the Justice Department that otherwise registrable work on behalf of that entity in the United States — such as public relations work — likely would not qualify for the [commercial] exemption because the activities would directly promote the public or political interests of the foreign government.”
The news comes as Oz is in a tight race with former hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick for the GOP nomination. The candidates are so close in the polls that it falls within the margin of error.