Pennsylvania Senate candidate Mehmet Oz said Wednesday he will renounce his Turkish citizenship if elected to the U.S. Senate, reversing an earlier claim that he would maintain dual citizenship even if it meant forgoing classified briefings.
Oz, who is running in the Republican primary, told Fox News that questions about his citizenship had become "a distraction" in the campaign. The move came as the celebrity doctor faced intense scrutiny for telling a reporter he would forgo Senate security clearances in order to maintain his Turkish citizenship. Oz claimed he maintains citizenship in Turkey to make it easier to care for his ailing mother, who lives in Istanbul.
"I’m committing that before I am sworn in as the next U.S. Senator for Pennsylvania I will only be a U.S. citizen," Oz told Fox News.
Oz’s ties to Turkey have become a liability in the primary campaign. A Washington Free Beacon poll found that 66 percent of likely Republican primary voters in the Keystone State would be less likely to vote for Oz because of his dual citizenship and his past service in the Turkish military. Oz polled far behind GOP frontrunner David McCormick in a head-to-head matchup, 56 percent to 26 percent.
The Ohio-born Oz obtained Turkish citizenship after serving in the Turkish military in the 1980s. He has drawn criticism over past meetings with Turkey’s authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Oz attended a fundraiser in 2019 for a Turkish-American advocacy group that accompanied Erdogan during a trip to Washington, D.C., in which his bodyguards attacked peaceful protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in May 2017.
McCormick questioned why Oz would wait until his election to renounce his citizenship. "Do it now. Voters can’t trust Mehmet Oz," McCormick said Wednesday.