Georgia Democrats responded with fury on Monday to a now-deleted digital ad by U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s campaign that enlarged the nose of Jon Ossoff, triggering accusations that the Republican was evoking anti-Semitic tropes against his Jewish opponent.
The Republican’s campaign deleted the fund-raising ad on Facebook after The Forward published an article that asserted Ossoff’s nose was “lengthened and widened” in a black-and-white photo even as other parts of his head stayed the same size.
In a statement, Perdue’s aides blamed an “unintentional error” by an outside vendor when a filter was applied. Critics saw something more malicious, noting that Ossoff was featured along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is also Jewish.
“This is the oldest, most obvious, least original anti-Semitic trope in history,” said Ossoff. “Senator, literally no one believes your excuses.”
State Sen. Nikema Williams, who heads the Democratic Party of Georgia, called on Perdue to apologize to Ossoff, fire the vendors involved and “take responsibility for injecting these kinds of hateful stereotypes into this election.”
Perdue spokeswoman Casey Black said it was an accident that occurred during a graphic design process handled by an outside vendor who resized the photo and then used a filter. She said the ad was taken down to ensure “no confusion” and added that Perdue had not seen it.
“Anybody who implies that this was anything other than an inadvertent error is intentionally misrepresenting Senator Perdue’s strong and consistent record of standing firmly against antisemitism and all forms of hate,” she said.
Perdue’s aides pointed to his support for a resolution that condemns anti-Semitism, his support for pro-Israel and Jewish causes, and his co-sponsorship of a measure which sought to toughen penalties on victims of crimes motivated by religious or racial bias.
Ben Fry, the Republican’s campaign manager, said later Tuesday the digital consultant behind the ad had been terminated and that Perdue is “committed to ensuring future mistakes of this kind do not occur.” The campaign didn’t name the firm.
A key ally of President Donald Trump, Perdue is locked in a tight race for re-election against Ossoff, who won a crowded primary outright last month.
The Republican, a former Fortune 500 executive, has recently launched a series of ads attacking Ossoff as too liberal and highlighting his healthcare and law-and-order stances. Ossoff, the owner of an investigative journalism firm, has sought to frame Perdue as a member of a corrupt political elite.
Jewish groups wary of centuries-old anti-Semitic caricatures reacted swiftly. Dov Wilker, who heads the Atlanta office of the American Jewish Committee, said he was “shocked” to learn of Perdue’s ad. He also criticized a reference in the spot that references “buying Georgia,” which he said also evokes hateful stereotypes.
“We call upon the senator to apologize and would be happy to meet with him and his staff to discuss anti-Semitism and its steady rise at home and abroad,” said Wilker.