Former camper’s allegation drives new Loeffler attack

At campaign events around the state this week, U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler has called new claims involving alleged abuse at a summer camp in Maryland overseen nearly two decades ago by a church then pastored by her Democratic rival Raphael Warnock as “potentially disqualifying.”

The Democrat’s campaign said Thursday that Loeffler’s attacks seek to misrepresent a 2002 incident that resulted in no charges from law enforcement and an acknowledgement from investigators that Warnock was “very helpful.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported that police officers arrested Warnock in July 2002 as they investigated an alleged child-abuse case at a church camp, and that prosecutors quickly dropped obstruction charges and called the arrest a misunderstanding.

But the arrest has become fodder for his political adversaries ahead of the Jan. 5 runoff elections for control of the U.S. Senate. Warnock and his allies characterize it as part of a trend of “lowest-of-the-low attacks,” while Loeffler’s campaign says there are questions that still demand answering.

Loeffler has brought it to the forefront of her closing message in the high-stakes races, which also pit Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue against Jon Ossoff. In three consecutive days of campaigning, she’s invoked a report by the conservative web site Washington Free Beacon.

In the report, which the AJC has been unable to independently verify, 30-year-old Anthony Washington said that a counselor at Camp Farthest Out forced him to spend the night sleeping outside as punishment for wetting the bed when he was 12 years old, and that counselors also doused him with urine.

At the time, Warnock was the 33-year-old senior pastor of Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore. For 40 years the church had operated the camp in rural Carroll County, Maryland, where as many as 300 inner-city children spent two weeks each summer.

The AJC has repeatedly reached out to Washington, his attorney and his relatives seeking comment. All have declined to speak or not returned calls and messages.

Loeffler has opened several press conferences following her events bringing up the incident. At one stop this week, Loeffler said Warnock “needs to answer as to what happened at that camp.” At another, she said Georgians “have a right to know what happened in that camp.”

Warnock’s campaign spokesman Michael Brewer said Loeffler is attempting to distract voters in the final stretch of the race.

“It doesn’t matter how many lies Senator Loeffler tells, the facts are the same: Reverend Warnock was helpful to law enforcement with their investigation and they thanked him.”