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Photo Illustration: Dr. Mehmet Oz in front of a rally of people carrying signs that read "Make American First Again"
MSNBC / Getty Images

How Dr. Oz undermines the GOP's 'America First' messaging

The party that preaches nationalist "America First" rhetoric is now backing a candidate with Turkish citizenship who voted in Turkey's 2018 election.


Mehmet Oz, the former talk show host and TV doctor known for hawking dubious health remedies, was officially named the GOP nominee for Pennsylvania senator on Friday

In many ways, Oz symbolizes the perfect 2022 GOP candidate: He’s been endorsed by Donald Trump, he has name recognition, he lacks experience and expertise, and he’s willing to parrot virtually any Republican talking point placed in front of him. 

In many ways, Oz symbolizes the perfect 2022 GOP candidate.

But the GOP’s embrace of Oz also symbolizes the party’s hypocrisy — and the meaninglessness of its bigoted “America First” rhetoric. Here, I’m referring to Oz’s dual citizenship — he's a citizen of both the United States and Turkey — and his participation in the 2018 Turkish elections. 

Back in February, Oz lied about his Turkish ties in a Washington Post interview, claiming he had “never been politically involved in Turkey in any capacity.” Facing criticism from his leading competitor at the time, David McCormick, Oz vowed to renounce his dual citizenship if he won the general election. Just months later, a photo of Oz voting in the 2018 election started circulating, contradicting his previous claims about political involvement in the country. 

According to ABC News, Oz’s financial records also showed he owns “several hundreds of thousands of dollars” in Turkish real estate and had signed a “lucrative” endorsement deal with the country’s national airline. 

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was, perhaps, Oz's loudest critic when it came to his Turkish ties. Pompeo said in May that it was important for Americans and voters to "understand the scope and depth of [Oz's] relationship with the Turkish government." But Pompeo's statements aside, there wasn't a fervent push within the party to get the candidate to drop out. (And of course, Oz did not drop out, and now could very well win in the general election.)

Oz, for his part, has said that he maintains dual U.S.-Turkey citizenship to care for his mother in Turkey. But would the GOP be this generous in accepting that justification if it were coming from a Democrat? 

If you think they would, I have an apartment building in Turkey I’d like to sell you. 

This, after all, is the same party that spread racist conspiracy theories about former President Barack Obama being born in Kenya in an effort to delegitimize his presidency and question his loyalty as an American. 

The GOP has run a similar play against Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, attempting to use her former status as a Somali refugee to suggest she secretly hates the United States.

Back in 2020, Trump and right-wing conspiracy theorists even peddled the false allegation that then-California Sen. Kamala Harris was ineligible to be vice president because her parents migrated to the United States from India and Jamaica. 

But times are evidently different for the GOP. The party desperately hopes to reclaim the Senate majority this fall, and they’ll need Oz to win his race against Democratic candidate John Fetterman to do it. That means the GOP, which loves to preach jingoistic ideals about putting America first, will be backing a candidate in Oz who technically hasn’t.