I can think of a million reasons why I wouldn’t support Mehmet Oz to represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate, and now I can add one more.
Oz, who holds dual Turkish and U.S. citizenship, has seemingly refused to acknowledge that what happened to the Armenian people at the hands of the Turks was in fact genocide, and Armenian Americans are rightfully up in arms about the possibility that a genocide-denier, endorsed by a Big Lie conspiracy theorist, could take office.
“Sometimes silence is louder than words,” Vic Gerami, award-winning journalist and the editor and publisher of The Blunt Post, told Daily Kos in an email.
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The Armenian genocide was the systematic murder and deportation of Armenians at the hands of the Turks of the Ottoman Empire in 1915 during World War I. Leaders of the Turkish government decided to massacre and drive out the Armenians, leaving between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians dead.
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“Dr. Oz’s failure to recognize the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Turks is evident to 1.3 Armenian Americans, most of whom are descendants of the survivors of the genocide … If denial is the final act of genocide, then Turkey’s campaign of disinformation and revisioning history is the ultimate terror. As a high-profile public figure, Dr. Oz had numerous opportunities to show up as a leader and do the right thing. But he’s shown us who he is. We believe him,” Gerami says.
Mark Momjian, a well-known lawyer based in Philadelphia and the former chair of the Armenian Center at Columbia University, told NBC News: “No one in this community will ever vote for Dr. Oz … We are convinced that he is part of a denial campaign when it comes to the Armenian genocide.”
In an article for The Armenian Weekly, published a few days after Oz announced his Senate run, writer Harut Sassounian compared Oz to Donald Trump, saying neither has a “background in politics” and noting that “the world-at-large suffered enough in the hands of the incompetent celebrity Trump.”
Sassounian also pointed out that even though Oz is a medical doctor, he has continued to promote the use of hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19 and although he’s running in Pennsylvania, he lives in New Jersey. According to Business Insider, Oz used his in-laws’ address to register in the state at the end of 2020.
But the most damning incident comes from Hurriyet Daily News, which reported in July 2014 that the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA), a nonprofit founded in 1979, prepared a “master plan” to “respond to the Armenians’ claims on every front.”
Measures included forming “activist committees” to lobby lawmakers, launching social media blitzes, and pressuring news organizations. Additionally, there were two dozen “day-long conferences,” and Oz, along with (then) Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent, was listed initially as one of the keynote speakers. According to The Armenian Weekly, a spokesperson for Oz said, “Dr. Oz is not involved in this in any way.”
The U.S. House and Senate recognized the Armenian genocide in 2019. In April 2021, President Biden followed suit and became the the first U.S. president to acknowledge it.
“Over the decades Armenian immigrants have enriched the United States in countless ways, but they have never forgotten the tragic history that brought so many of their ancestors to our shores. We honor their story. We see that pain. We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated,” Biden said in a statement coinciding with Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.
In mid-March, The Washington Examiner reported that Oz said if he wins the Senate seat, he will renounce his Turkish citizenship.
If elected, he would be the first Muslim to serve in the Senate, although he was raised secular and his wife is Christian. He has said that he has only kept his Turkish citizenship to make it easier to care for his mother who lives in Turkey and is suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
The reality is that in the same way Trump refuses to acknowledge his affiliation with and support from far-right extremist groups—and has continued to deny his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection, in addition to a million other lies and denials—Oz needs to either come out and say there was a genocide in Armenia, or face consequences from the voters who will surely reject him for failing to do so.