Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) backed up celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz on Tuesday, calling attacks on his dual U.S.-Turkish citizenship “unsavory.”
Oz’s campaign for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania has faced scrutiny for his close ties to Turkey, a nation run by autocrat Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In addition to his dual citizenship he has pledged to revoke it if elected, resurfaced photos showed Oz voted in Turkey’s most recent presidential election while reportedly not voting in America’s election.
Oz, who claims he maintains Turkish citizenship to care for his elderly mother, served in Turkey’s military to receive it. Oz also has a real estate portfolio within the country. An advocacy group has called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Oz for failing to register as a foreign agent for his work with Turkish Airlines.
These connections to Turkey drew criticism from former President Donald Trump’s former Secretary of State and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who said he has “judgments about [Oz’s] priorities.
However, Graham came to Oz’s defense in an interview with Politico, calling the attacks on Oz’s Turkish ties “unsavory.”
“That whole line of attack is unsavory to me. I have no doubt that he’s loyal to the United States,” Graham said.
Oz also found support from National Republican Senatorial Chair Rick Scott (R-FL), who does not “have a concern about” Oz’s dual citizenship.
“It’s a legit issue, but I think he’s answered it well. I don’t have any concerns about it myself,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND).
“I can’t imagine why anybody would be against [Oz] just because he maintains dual citizenship,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) told Politico.
On the other hand, Democrat Senator and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ) strongly criticized Oz for his connections to Turkey, signaling an attack Democrats may use against him if he advances to the general election.
“Why then? Why not now? If you want to be a U.S. senator, you should tell the people of Pennsylvania that your only allegiance is to the United States,” Menendez said.
A Pro-Democrat super PAC has already run an attack ad against Oz for his ties to Turkey that saw support from Armenian-American and Greek-American leaders.
Oz campaign spokesperson Brittany Yanick painted this criticism of Oz as “xenophobic attacks.”
“These are pathetic and xenophobic attacks on Dr. Oz by David McCormick, who should be ashamed of himself,” Yanick said. “There is no security issue whatsoever, and David McCormick knows that Dr. Oz has maintained his dual citizenship to make it easier to help care for his mother who has Alzheimer’s and lives there.”