It’s a question most Americans can answer pretty easily: “How many houses do you own?”
But for TV doctor and Senate candidate Mehmet Oz, it’s apparently a tricky one—with qualifiers, an explanation, and an interpretative answer.
At a campaign stop last weekend at the Carbon County Fair in Palmerton, Pennsylvania, a Democratic campaign operative asked Oz how many houses he owns.
Oz’s answer? “Legitimately, I own two houses,” he said, according to footage filmed by the operative and obtained by The Daily Beast.
“But one of them we're building on, the other ones I rent,” Oz added.
The problem with that answer is Oz—legitimately—owns far more than two houses.
In fact, according to public records, Dr. Oz owns 10 properties:
• a 9,000-square-foot mansion in New Jersey
• a 7,000-square-foot country house in Pennsylvania
• a condo in New Jersey
• a piece of residential real estate in Sariyer, Turkey
• another piece of residential real estate in Sariyer, Turkey
• a Manhattan condo
• another Manhattan condo
• an oceanside mansion in Palm Beach, Florida
• a cattle farm in Okeechobee, Florida
• and a piece of residential property in Konya, Turkey, which appears to be used as a student dormitory
Oz’s wife, Lisa, also owns a mansion in Maine with her family and a pool house next to Oz’s New Jersey mansion.
While Oz does rent out some of these properties—at times sharing them with questionable tenants—he is not renting them from others. He owns them, legally and legitimately, and they make up a sizable portion of his assets, which total at least $100 million.
Oz’s wealth has been a focal point throughout his Senate run in Pennsylvania. While framing himself as an everyman candidate who thinks $20 is too much for crudités—before the tequila—Democrats have been attacking the Republican Senate hopeful on his vast rolodex of addresses.
His opponent, Pennsylvania Lieutenant Gov. John Fetterman, just last weekend insisted the press should fact check how many “mansions” Oz owns.
The locations of those mansions have also been a frequent source of contention. Oz only moved to Pennsylvania in late 2020, after years of living in New Jersey and growing up in Delaware. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), whose term ends this year, had announced plans to retire earlier in 2020, teeing up the open primary for Republicans this year.
Oz did attend medical and business school at the University of Pennsylvania, and his in-laws were already Pennsylvania residents.
Others have raised questions about the source of Oz’s wealth. As a celebrity TV doctor, Oz has drawn pushback over the years for hawking questionable health supplements—sometimes including products he was secretly invested in.
Asked by The Daily Beast directly how many homes Oz owns, the Oz campaign did not respond. The campaign also did not respond to a request for comment on if there were any unknown houses left out of this report.
Of course, Oz isn’t the only wealthy candidate in the race. Fetterman himself comes from money, and he received financial support from his family while serving as mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania—a job that only pays $150 a month. (His Braddock loft was also gifted to him for only $1 by his sister.)
But Fetterman has largely avoided the same pushback as Oz, in part because Oz is far and away more wealthy, and also because Fetterman’s hoodie and baggy shorts aesthetic do not exactly scream “Scrooge McDuck,” at least not the same way Oz’s wardrobe and experience as a TV doctor suggests he’s a multimillionaire. (Oz also hasn’t been able to effectively call out Fetterman for his family wealth, for obvious reasons.)
Wealth has been a staple of American political debate for decades. In 2008, Barack Obama hammered his presidential opponent, then-Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), in an ad titled “Seven,” Obama’s campaign highlighted how McCain couldn’t actually remember how many houses he owned. (The answer was seven.)
In 2012, Obama also attacked Mitt Romney over his exorbitant wealth, with the campaign constantly highlighting that Romney had a “car elevator” planned for a San Diego home, so he could more efficiently store all of his automobiles.
In the Pennsylvania Senate race, wealth has played a role since the primary, where the riches of once-GOP-frontrunner for the nomination Dave McCormick drew quips from the Democratic field. And Fetterman himself has called out the ultra-wealthy, previously voicing support for a wealth tax and making an increase in the federal minimum wage a central pillar of his campaign.
In the exchange with the Democratic operative, who doesn’t appear in the clip to introduce himself or announce that he’s recording Oz, the operative asks the GOP Senate candidate how many houses he has.
After Oz tells him he “legitimately” only has two houses, the operative asks about one of the houses being the one where Oz married his wife.
“Actually, yeah, I’m renting that from my mother-in-law because we’re building the house next to it,” Oz said.
The operative doesn’t stick around very long for more questions. He simply says, “Oh, gotcha”—pun seemingly not intended—and adds that Oz’s situation is “very cool.”
“Thank you very much,” the operative says as he leaves and turns off his camera.