Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Jon Ossoff are in an escalating war of words — even though they’re not running against each other in Georgia’s historic doubleheader Senate runoffs.
The cross-campaign contretemps kicked off Wednesday when Ossoff criticized Loeffler for taking a selfie with a white supremacist and former member of the Ku Klux Klan earlier this month at an event.
“Kelly Loeffler has been campaigning with a Klansman,” Ossoff told Fox News Channel, when asked if allegations of wrongdoing Loeffler has leveled against his fellow Democrat, Raphael Warnock, would drag down both of their campaigns.
“She is stooping to these vicious personal attacks to distract from the fact that she’s been campaigning with a former member of the Ku Klux Klan,” Ossoff said. “We deserve better than that here in Georgia.”
Loeffler, who said she didn’t know who the former Klansman was when she snapped a photo with him and that he was later removed from her event, shot back that Ossoff — who is facing her fellow Republican Sen. David Perdue — lacks credibility.
“Every Georgian knows that Jon Ossoff is a pathological liar. And he’s a trust-fund socialist who’s never had a job, other than through the Chinese Communist Party,” Loeffler said, echoing a debunked claim by Perdue about Ossoff’s income.
Loeffler then turned her attention to her rival in the special election, Warnock, who was arrested in 2002 for allegedly obstructing a police investigation into child abuse claims at a Maryland camp he ran. The charges were dropped, blamed on a “miscommunication” and, The Baltimore Sun reported at the time, Warnock was not suspected of abuse and was later deemed helpful to investigators. A former camper, now 30, told The Washington Free Beacon in a story published this week that he had had urine thrown on him and was forced to sleep outside at one point.
Warnock has also been under fire for a domestic dispute involving his now-former wife, who in March accused him of running over her foot with his car. Police at the time determined her foot showed no signs of such an injury, and her lawyer told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she wanted her privacy. On Wednesday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee released a TV ad that called Warnock a phony and featured police body camera footage of the incident where his former wife called Warnock “a great actor.”
Loeffler referenced that incident, as well, in addressing Ossoff’s comments about her.
“If he’s going to bring up lies about who I’m campaigning with, I’m going to talk about the truth about who he’s campaigning with,” she said. “He’s campaigning with Raphael Warnock, who has a past with child abuse and domestic abuse, who has celebrated Jeremiah Wright, Karl Marx, Fidel Castro, James Cone, Louis Farrakhan. He’s attacked our police, our military. He’s attacked Israel, small businesses and every single Georgian.”
There’s no evidence that Warnock “celebrated” Marx, Castro or Farrakhan, although Warnock had written that the “Marxist Critique has much to teach the black church,” Castro did speak at a New York City church where Warnock was a youth pastor in 1995, and Warnock had called Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam “important for the development of Black theology.”
Warnock’s and Ossoff’s campaigns have denied they’re socialists, and Warnock has previously called Loeffler’s attacks on him misleading. Warnock did not clearly denounce socialism and Marxism when Loeffler asked him to do so at their only debate last month, although he said he believes “in our free-enterprise system.”
Loeffler has been on defense over the selfie pic that former Klansman Chester Doles snapped with her at a Dec. 15 campaign event. Doles in September was escorted out of a joint campaign event that Loeffler held with then-congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene, who went on to win her election in November. Loeffler’s race against Warnock and Ossoff’s campaign against Perdue went to runoffs because no candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote in their races.
Loeffler’s campaign said she doesn’t know Doles, but Warnock’s campaign tagged her in an ad with guilt by association by pointing out how the racist was twice drawn to her campaign events.
Warnock’s campaign spokesperson, Michael J. Brewer, said the appointed Republican “has spent her whole campaign lying about Rev. Warnock and trying to divide Georgians. So let’s be clear: First, she campaigned with a KKK leader in September, and when asked about it at the time, said she didn’t know him. Then three months later, when she was caught campaigning with him again, she tried to use the same excuse.”
There’s no evidence that Loeffler knew Doles or solicited his support, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Asked about the Democratic criticism that racists feel comfortable with her, Loeffler said Doles was removed from her December event, albeit it came after the picture was taken and after it ricocheted across Twitter.
“I don’t think he felt comfortable at all. We kicked him out. Look, what’s going on here is exactly what the Democrats are trying to do to every Republican. They want to attack Republicans for our conservative values,” Loeffler told POLITICO. “They want to threaten them by calling them names like racists, and Republicans are fighting for opportunity for every American.”
Loeffler plugged her “prosperity plan to bring capital to make sure that underserved communities — like African American communities — can have more access to capital and live the American dream.”
“I’m not going to be part of this cancel culture and attacking the other side, just to try to bring socialism,” she said. “That’s what they’re doing. They’re really trying to bring socialism to America by lying and promoting a cancel culture.”
Later Thursday, when asked to respond to Loeffler’s broadside against him, Ossoff stuck to the issue of the KKK.
“The question I have for Sen. Loeffler is why she keeps having photo ops and being in campaign events with white supremacists and Klansmen,” he said. “I think that Sen. Loeffler should hold a press conference and denounce the Klan and renounce those people that she’s taken these photos with.”
James Arkin reported from Marietta, Ga.
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