Dr. Mehmet Oz (pictured) announced in late November that he will run as a Republican in Pennsylvania to replace retiring GOP Senator Pat Toomey. Soon thereafter, he picked up a key endorsement in Congressman Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pennsylvania), a member of the House GOP leadership.
But as his campaign heats up, Oz's affiliation with the government of Turkey is drawing the attention of some conservatives. In fact, Benjamin Baird – director of Middle East Forum’s Islamism in Politics project – tells AFN that the television personality’s ties to Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi [AKP]) are rather alarming.
Baird acknowledges that it’s not unusual for an elected representative or a candidate to have ties to their homeland, even in the form of dual citizenship. But Oz’s ties to the Turkish government are the real cause for concern, Baird says.
“He sat on the high advisory council of the World Turkish Business Council,” Baird explains, labeling it as one of the most blatant examples of Oz's ties to the Turkish government. “He was basically an advisor to a business lobbying front that is owned and operated by the AKP.”
He adds: “Having a government official who is an unregistered lobbyist of Turkey is something that should trouble all Americans – especially Pennsylvania voters.”
While Oz's progressive stances may be one issue, Baird says the TV celebrity's ties “all seem to point back to the AKP [and this] is problematic because [the Turkish government] is a liberal and autocratic regime that’s at odds with American values.”
Although Turkey is a NATO ally, the Middle East scholar suggests that among the “many reasons to distrust them” is Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan.
“It all goes back to President Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman ambitions and his support for Islamist values here in the United States,” Baird says, pointing out that the Turkish regime is aligned very closely with many Muslim-American organizations.
One of those is the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), which according to Baird has been described as a front group for the AKP – and by the Center for Security Policy as the "leading edge" of the jihadist movement in the United States.
“[USCMO members] regularly travel to Turkey to meet with Erdogan and top AKP officials, which is pretty troubling,” he says, adding that a number of Turkish national groups in America “basically serve as proxies” for the Turkish government to garner support of their agenda.
"[And that agenda is] not one that’s pro-democracy,” Baird continues, pointing out that Erdogan has become “increasingly autocratic” over the years – jailing journalists and members of opposition parties, for example. “His government has also been absorbing businesses, schools, and many private institutions that are now a part of the state as a result of the government's overreach.”
That all causes the MEF researcher to question if now-Senate candidate Oz would renounce his relationship with the authoritarian, Islamist government of Turkey – or if the celebrity doctor might be positioning himself to serve Turkey’s national interests once in office.