Georgia senators avoid criticizing Trump for sharing ‘white power’ video

Screenshot of video of a protest in The Villages, Fla., that President Donald Trump shared on Twitter on Sunday, June 28, 2020.

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Screenshot of video of a protest in The Villages, Fla., that President Donald Trump shared on Twitter on Sunday, June 28, 2020.

U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler have avoided criticizing President Donald Trump even after his posts on social media were called out for spreading racist messages.

The most recent example came on Sunday when the president shared a video on Twitter of a supporter yelling out "white power" during a counter-protest at a Florida retirement community. He even added his own commentary: "Thank you to the great people of The Villages."

Trump deleted the post hours later, but not before it went viral and was widely criticized.  The president's spokespeople said he didn't hear the controversial phrase often associated with white supremacists.

As anti-racism protests spread across the nation, Trump has been accused of leaning into messages that carry racist or xenophobic messages that resonate with a base of white voters resistant to social change.

Neither Perdue nor Loeffler responded to questions about his post and whether their silence indicates a reluctance in general to challenge him.

“Senator Perdue condemns racism and discrimination of any kind and believes hateful acts have no place in our society,” a spokesman for Perdue said.

Loeffler campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson added on a familiar critique: that the latest controversy is media-driven.

"This is just another one of the media's silly games that we refuse to play,” he said. “Kelly is 100% behind President Trump's plan to revive the U.S. economy, hold Big Tech accountable, and keep the American people safe. Like the President, she stands strongly against racism and hate.”

Recent polls show that Trump is losing support among seniors and college-educated white men. The issues surrounding systemic racism and police brutality highlighted by the protests are resonating with voters.

Republicans, however, have long avoided criticizing Trump in public because his support is often crucial in primaries and a negative tweet from the president’s account can kill a campaign.

Democrats in Georgia and beyond have marked the trend, saing Republicans have turned a blind-eye to what they consider divisive social media posts from the president facing a tough re-election battle.

Senate Republicans bear more of these criticisms than other members of the GOP because after Trump they are the nation's highest-profile elected officials and  control a congressional chamber with the ability to enforce checks-and-balances on him.

Jon Ossoff, participating in a political event Monday morning with Stacey Abrams and Rev. Raphael Warnock, noted Perdue and Loeffler’s silence. Ossoff is Perdue’s opponent in the general election.

“What a stunning and irrefutable indictment of their personal character that they continue to stand by this man who so disgraces himself in office,” Ossoff said.

Warnock, who is challenging Loeffler in November, called Trump a “divider-in-chief” and said his actions have alienated voters who in 2020 will look for candidates who represent unity.

“There is an awakening in this country; He is out of step with the American people,” Warnock said.

Abrams said Trump’s leadership lacks “moral value” and voters should be cautious in how they select leaders in the future.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, the only black Republican in his chamber, was one of the few members to directly address Sunday’s tweet.

Scott urged the president to take down the video, which was still on his feed at the time, and said it was “indefensible.” But he also avoided answering a cable TV host’s questions about whether he was personally offended.

"We can play politics with it, or we can't,"  the senator from South Carolina said. "I'm not going to."

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