Lieberman urged to quit Georgia Senate bid over book’s ‘racist and discriminatory’ tropes

Matt Lieberman, an entrepreneur and son of former U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019, became the first Democrat to enter the race for retiring Republican Johnny Isakson s seat.  (CONTRIBUTED)
Matt Lieberman, an entrepreneur and son of former U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019, became the first Democrat to enter the race for retiring Republican Johnny Isakson s seat. (CONTRIBUTED)

The chairwoman of Georgia’s Democratic Party on Friday condemned Senate candidate Matt Lieberman for authoring a book with “racist and discriminatory tropes,” while the head of the state NAACP called on the Democrat to abandon the race.

Lieberman, the son of former vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman, faced the calls to quit his bid after the Huffington Post published a piece about his 2018 self-published novel “Lucius,” which involves a racist character who is sympathetic to the Ku Klux Klan.

“Let me be clear: racist and discriminatory tropes have no place in our politics and no place in the Democratic Party,” said Nikema Williams, a state senator and congressional candidate who is chairwoman of the party. “These kinds of offensive writings are antithetical to our party’s values and will not be tolerated.”

Lieberman dismissed the criticism and pointed to a Kirkus review that praised the novel’s “artistic and philosophic depth.”

An attorney and former principal of an Atlanta Jewish school, Lieberman is one of 21 candidates in the November special election against U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler. With little funding or institutional support, recent polls show him in a tight contest with the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who is backed by Stacey Abrams and the political arm of the Senate Democrats.

The November contest features all candidates on the same ballot and a likely January runoff between the two top vote-getters. Some party leaders fear a split Democratic vote could pave the way for an all GOP runoff between Loeffler and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, who are both polling ahead of Lieberman and Warnock in a recent survey.

Lieberman’s 213-page novel features an elderly white man who regularly uses racist epithets and has delusions that he owns a slave named Lucius. That character, Benno, asserts that Black people have mystical connections to animals and plants.

In his new role as a U.S. Senate candidate, the Rev. Raphael Warnock will have to steer clear of overt politicking from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he is the senior pastor. Otherwise, it could threaten the church’s tax-exempt status. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
In his new role as a U.S. Senate candidate, the Rev. Raphael Warnock will have to steer clear of overt politicking from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he is the senior pastor. Otherwise, it could threaten the church’s tax-exempt status. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

In a statement, Lieberman said he wrote the novel in response to the white supremacist neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville in 2017 and framed it as a “clear-eyed and honest look at racism in America.”

“The fact that I published this book has been known since I began this campaign last year, so an attack surfacing only now is testament to the strength of my candidacy today,” he said.

Former federal prosecutor Ed Tarver, another Democrat in the race, said the book was “shocking” and that Lieberman should apologize to Black voters and withdraw from the contest.

And James Woodall, the president of the state NAACP chapter, said the “racist tropes” about slaves and society rooted in the book were deeply troubling.

“I know there were good intentions in writing this book, but it doesn’t undo the real damage these kinds of narratives create,” Woodall told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Get out of the race. We don’t need that kind of division or distraction in a time where our democracy is literally on the line.”

Lieberman said he’s not going anywhere.

“I’m not going to be distracted from seeking the support of Georgians,” he said, “nor deterred from fighting against racism and for a more just society.”

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