I’ve made no bones about my opinion of John Fetterman and the “election” that sent him off to exercise his notable oratorical skills in the United States Senate. However, there is another side to the Oz vs. Fetterman story, which concerns the relationship between Dr. Oz and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
My sentiment concerning the Pennsylvania senatorial election was: “Why can’t they both lose?”
I always like to present a variety of opinions at Gates of Vienna, so here is David Boyajian’s take on Fetterman, Oz, and Turkey.
The Blunder That Could’ve Cost John Fetterman the Election
by David Boyajian
“If John Fetterman lacks the stomach to expose the entire Oz-Turkish love affair, particularly Ankara’s support of ISIS, he may lose… and will deserve it.”
My Double Trouble: Dr. Mehmet Oz and Turkey said that back in October.
It spelled out Oz’s alarming relationships with the Turkish government, President Erdogan, and shady Turkish organizations and Turks. Benjamin Baird’s Behind Dr. Oz’s Curtain and other writers had covered similar ground.
Yes, soon-to-be Democratic Senator Fetterman did beat the Republican Oz, by roughly 240,000 votes out of 5.3 million — 51% to 46.6%.
Yet victory was never assured for the stroke-stricken Fetterman and his anemic campaign. Polls showed Oz gaining on, and sometimes beating, his opponent. Early voting before Fetterman’s dismal October 25 debate performance probably helped his campaign.
Oz has dual citizenship with Turkey. That’s vastly different than dual citizenship with, say, France or Norway. Turkey is a rogue NATO member, unashamedly repressive and corrupt, and has long supported international terrorist organizations such as ISIS.
Oz’s foreign ties, some of which we’ll list, were his most glaring vulnerability. Yet Fetterman never exposed those ties.
Had he hammered home Oz’s troubling foreign relationships in blistering attack ads, Fetterman would undoubtedly have won more decisively.
Points Fetterman Missed
- Ahmet S. Yayla, Turkey’s counterterrorism chief from 2010-2013, acknowledged in 2020 that “Turkey was a central hub for… over 50,000 ISIS foreign fighters, and… ISIS logistical materials… making Turkey and ISIS practically allies.”
As a Turkish citizen, Oz had a responsibility to condemn Turkey’s ongoing support of ISIS and other terrorists. Yet he remained silent.
- I’ve never found forthright criticisms by Oz of Turkey’s myriad human rights abuses, corruption, and mistreatment of Christians.
- In 2019, Oz said, “I met with our leader [President Erdogan] in Turkey.” Our? Erdogan is Oz’s “leader”? The doctor offered to “help Turkey as a representative.” As a U.S. senator, perhaps?
- The photo of a beaming Oz double-clasping the hand of his corrupt, ISIS-supporting “leader,” President Erdogan, speaks for itself.
- In 2019, Oz embraced Turkish “Justice” Minister Abdulhamit Gul in New York City. The U.S. Treasury Department penalized Gul in 2018 for his role in Turkey’s unjust detention of Andrew Brunson, an American Christian pastor.
- Oz produces lifestyle programming on the BiP communications platform. Erdogan’s Turkish Wealth Fund owns BiP.
- Oz’s extensive real estate holdings in Turkey include a $2 million dormitory leased at no cost to the corrupt regime’s Education Ministry.
- Why did Oz hold a meeting with Turkey’s U.S. Ambassador, Hasan Murat Mercan, and why did the ambassador immediately phone Oz when he announced his candidacy? Mercan, incidentally, was a founder of Erdogan’s corrupt, Islamist AKP party.
- As a special guest at a 2019 Turkish fundraiser, Oz sat beside Murat Guzel, co-host of the event. Guzel was reportedly questioned by Federal agents and given immunity in an investigation regarding political donations.
- Oz was once elected to the High Advisory Council of the Istanbul-based World Turkish Business Council (DTiK). The latter is affiliated with Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEiK), an arm of Erdogan’s regime.
- Republican Mike Pompeo, the ex-CIA director and Trump’s Secretary of State, said Oz must explain the “scope and depth” of his relationship to Turkey because they raise “national security concerns.”
- Enes Kanter Freedom, the NBA basketball star, former Turkish citizen, and Erdogan critic, tweeted, “[Dr. Oz] is a Foreign Agent and he works for Dictator [Erdogan].”
Just a few of these facts in skillfully produced attack ads would have demolished Oz’s persona and campaign.
The bottom line: Voters won’t tolerate candidates who look to an atrocious foreign government — in this case, Turkey’s — for leadership and personal gain. Voters must first, however, learn the facts in hard-hitting campaign ads.
Meanwhile, Oz’s campaign itself used rough tactics. It opined that the Democrat’s stroke may have been caused by a bad diet and accused him of having sponged off his parents.
I provided Fetterman’s campaign manager, Brendan McPhillips, plenty of documentation about Oz. I never heard from him.
Why didn’t Fetterman use such obvious, potent facts against Oz?
American presidents (some more than others), the U.S. State Department, elected Democrats and Republicans, and mainstream corporate media have habitually kowtowed to Turkey’s endless threats and demands. It’s a decades-long story.
Most recently, Turkey supports ISIS, threatens its neighbors (even NATO member Greece), and uses American F-16s contrary to U.S. law. Yet Washington does surprisingly little to hold Ankara accountable.
Even several Democratic critics of Turkey — such as Senators Bob Menendez (NJ) and Chris Van Hollen (MD) and Representatives Frank Pallone (NJ) and Dina Titus (NV) — apparently didn’t criticize Oz’s Turkish connections.
To no avail, before Pennsylvania’s May 17 primary, I asked the campaigns of GOP candidates Kathy Barnette and Dave McCormick to expose Oz’s failure to condemn Turkey’s support of ISIS.
McCormick proceeded to lose to Oz by just 951 votes out of 1.3 million.
Then again, McCormick had been an Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, a CEO of the world’s largest hedge fund, and a former board chairman of Washington, DC’s Turkophilic Atlantic Council. He would probably rather have lost than hurt Turkey’s feelings.
By throwing away a commonsense campaign strategy, John Fetterman betrayed his supporters and their financial commitment. Fear of offending a foreign government and the U.S. State Department is no excuse.
Hopefully, Senator Fetterman will grow a backbone.
David Boyajian is an Armenian-American freelance journalist. His primary foreign policy focus is the Caucasus. Many of his articles are archived at www.armeniapedia.org/wiki/David_Boyajian.
For his previous essays at Gates of Vienna, see the David Boyajian Archives.