Dr. Mehmet Oz owns an undisclosed apartment in New Jersey that houses close associates of his who are linked to groups that have denied the ethnic cleansing which occurred in the formative years of the modern Turkish state.
Bergen County records show that since 2006 Oz and his wife have owned the condominium in the borough of Fairview, a seven-minute drive from their mansion overlooking the Hudson River, where the county sent the unit’s property tax bill as recently as this year. Yet this apartment is oddly absent from the otherwise exhaustive disclosure Oz made in April as a candidate for the U.S. senator from Pennsylvania.
Candidates are not obligated to report real estate holdings that do not produce revenue—but Oz did so for his other non-revenue producing properties, including the Cliffside Park address, his new home in Pennsylvania, and his residential holdings in Turkey, where the former daytime TV host’s parents were born. It was impossible to ascertain whether Oz received rent payments from the condo, as neither he nor his tenants replied to repeated requests for comment.
What was possible to ascertain is who those tenants are: a pair of apparent longtime friends deeply involved in Turkish nationalist activism and connected to groups that have fought to prevent the United States from recognizing the extermination of Armenians on Turkish territory during World War I—which Oz himself has refused to describe as a genocide, despite a consensus among respected historians.
Documents filed with the New York State Charities Bureau show that Necmiye Kacaroglu reported the condominium as her personal address last year when she co-founded a nonprofit called Ataturk’s Heritage—named for Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the controversial founder of the modern Turkish nation. New Jersey voter records show that her husband has used the condo as his address since at least 2014, and the legal search engine LexisNexis places both them and their adult children at this location.
Besides multiple photographs of herself and her husband with the Oz family at private and public events, Kacaroglu’s Facebook page is filled with images of Ataturk.
Ataturk was a top army officer when Ottoman imperial authorities slaughtered and expelled upwards of a million ethnic Armenians from Asia Minor. The first president of the Republic of Turkey inaugurated the country’s long policy of downplaying the atrocities and blaming them on the Armenians themselves, whom Ataturk and his associates cast as a dangerous fifth column who abetted the Allies.
As a military leader and as head of the new nation, Ataturk also participated in the elimination of Turkey’s ethnic Greek minority. His success in establishing a cult of personality and a new ethno-state in defiance of Western powers later made him a hero to Nazi officials, with Adolf Hitler keeping a bust of the Turkish despot and referring to him as his “shining star.”
On her own social media, Kacaroglu has personally repeated many of the Turkish government’s lines, blaming Armenians for the killing of Turkish soldiers by British troops in World War I and sharing articles complaining about Armenian demands for Turkish recognition of the war crimes committed against them
Among the photos of herself and the Oz family are shots from the 2018 gala of the American Turkish Society. This group has long shied away from public statements on the systematic killing and deportation of Armenians, and with regards to the only recently successful efforts to get the U.S. government to recognize these crimes as a genocide. However, the society’s longtime leader, record executive Ahmet Ertegun, controversially sponsored academics who promoted the Turkish government’s version of events and refused to publicly describe the massacres as a genocide—even though, before his death, he reportedly admitted as much in private. The American Turkish Society did not respond to requests for comment.
Kacaroglu is also a longtime member and a recent candidate for the presidency of the Amerika Türk Kadınlar Birliği, or Turkish Women’s League of America. This New York-based group is one of the component organizations of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations. The ATAA formed in the late 1970s, reportedly at the behest of the then-Turkish ambassador, to counter the perceived Armenian influence on American policy. The ATAA is today one of the country’s leading Armenian genocide denial groups, having led lawsuits and pressure campaigns to prevent U.S. schools from instructing about the atrocities. Its webpage features a prominent tab labeled “Armenian Issue,” which links to numerous pages attacking Armenians and denying the extent of the killings and Turkish culpability.
Social media posts also show the league maintains close ties with the Turkish consulate and diplomatic corps, and Kacaroglu’s page includes photos and videos of her participating in League events at the Manhattan outpost.
However, a spokesperson for the group asserted that the league had canceled Kacaroglu’s membership after her bid to become its president failed. They acknowledged the league’s affiliation and dues payments to ATAA, but maintained the league is a cultural and linguistic organization, “not a politics group.” However, the spokesperson added that they personally do not believe the Armenian genocide occurred.
The social-media pages of Kacaroglu’s husband and son are also rife with Turkish nationalist imagery, allusions to Ataturk, and posts supporting her activism. And it’s not just Facebook photos that attest to the families’ closeness: Oz’s wife has acknowledged the Kacaroglus in two of her books, thanking them in one note for “holding down the home front.”
Among the queries Oz and Kacaroglu failed to respond to was whether he had ever donated money to any of the Turkish nationalist groups in which she is associated, or supported those organizations in any other way.
Candidates who deliberately do not report a source of income in their disclosures are subject to a $50,000 fine and further civil penalties, good government advocates said.
“The voters have the right to know the financial interests of the people they are going to entrust with power,” said Delaney Marsco, senior legal counsel for ethics at the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center. “When candidates and public civil servants withhold that information, it does a lot of harm to the public trust.”
However, if Oz is simply allowing them to stay in the residence free of charge, Marsco said he would have violated no rules and would face no consequences. But it is unclear why he reported his New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Turkish homes while excluding the Fairview condo.
Oz’s recent conversion to Pennsylvania resident has dogged him since he launched his campaign. He only registered to vote in the state he aspires to represent in 2020, having been a New Jersey resident for the two decades prior. He’s been criticized for allegedly filming campaign videos for his Pennsylvania Senate run from his New Jersey mansion. His latest FEC report showed stops for gas in Princeton, New Jersey, four times over the past quarter. Like many New Jerseyans, he’s a devout New York Yankees fan, once calling his New York Yankees cap his “sartorial essential.”
And Oz’s Cliffside Park, New Jersey, mansion’s address appears in late 2021 on multiple campaign donation forms: one giving $5,800 to Team Herschel Inc. in support of Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker, and two for a total donation of $5,800 to New Jersey Republican House candidate Tom Kean Jr.
The out-of-state ties have been a talking point for his Democratic opponent, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who’s crafted memes, shitposts and even a video from Jersey Shore personality Snooki (a.k.a. Nicole Polizzi) to troll the former television host on his new Pennsylvania residency.
Oz’s relationship to Turkey has become almost as awkward as his history in New Jersey. Oz once proudly highlighted his Turkish heritage and his affinity for his parents’ native land, where he holds citizenship, served in the military, and even voted in recent elections.
Conservative critics have attacked his ties to his parents’ homeland, while Armenian groups have argued his work for the partially state-owned Turkish Airlines marks him as a foreign agent—an argument his campaign has labeled “ridiculous.” The surgeon-turned-supplement pitchman has promised to relinquish his Turkish citizenship if elected to replace retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) this November.