“My dual citizenship has become a distraction in this campaign,” the former daytime TV personality said in a statement. “I maintained it to care for my ailing mother, but after several weeks of discussions with my family, 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.”
Before Oz issued his statement, the McCormick campaign organized a press briefing Wednesday with Alaska GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan, who said it was “inconceivable” that a senator could forgo attending classified briefings. When asked why a senator would have to renounce his dual citizenship to have the necessary security clearance, Sullivan said he was unsure.
“My understanding is, and I might be wrong, is that the issue has never been tested, that a dual citizen from another country, a Middle East country, would have to renounce,” Sullivan said. “My understanding is it’s never been tested, and why should you even risk testing it? I don’t know where the intel community would come out on this.”
It is not the first time McCormick’s campaign has tried to make an issue of the background of Oz, who was born in the United States to Turkish immigrant parents. Jess Szymanski, a McCormick campaign spokesperson, asked last month how Oz could be “America First” when he had “dual loyalties.”
Oz’s campaign, in turn, has tried to portray McCormick as as too cozy with China, citing statements McCormick made as a top Treasury Department official in the George W. Bush administration and his hedge fund’s recent investments in China. Oz said in his statement Wednesday that McCormick’s attacks were “bigoted,” “desperate,” “disgraceful” and “disqualifying.”
“The bigoted attacks my opponent Dave McCormick has made against me as the child of immigrants are reminiscent of slurs made in the past about Catholics and Jews,” Oz said. “It is a sign of McCormick’s desperate campaign that he has resorted to this disgraceful tactic. It is completely disqualifying behavior for anyone aiming to serve in the United States Senate.”
McCormick responded Wednesday that Oz should drop his Turkish citizenship “now.”
“Voters can’t trust Mehmet Oz,” McCormick said on Twitter. “Renounce your Turkish citizenship now.”
The Pennsylvania primary takes place on May 17.