Loeffler’s campaign takes aim at Warnock in first TV broadsides

Republican supporters watch returns for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Raphael Warnock and Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler come in at the Georgia Republican Party Election Night Celebration Party at the Intercontinental Buckhead Atlanta hotel on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)
Republican supporters watch returns for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Raphael Warnock and Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler come in at the Georgia Republican Party Election Night Celebration Party at the Intercontinental Buckhead Atlanta hotel on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s campaign is putting more than $1 million behind a pair of new attack ads meant to soften Democrat Raphael Warnock’s poll numbers ahead of the Jan. 5 runoff.

After largely going unscathed in the general election, Loeffler’s attacks highlight footage of Warnock defending the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in 2008 and claim he’d “give the radicals total control" if elected.

It’s part of a Republican strategy to rev up the conservative base by depicting Democrats as too extreme for Georgia ahead of the twin runoffs, which will likely decide control of the U.S. Senate.

Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, was one of the most prominent defenders of Wright when his sermons became a flashpoint in Barack Obama’s 2008 bid for president.

In the first 30-second spot, a narrator accuses Warnock of peddling “anti-American hatred” for supporting Wright. The Democrat has said Wright’s critics failed to grasp the deeper message of the sermons, along with the role Black pastors play as social justice activists.

“I know Reverend Wright. I’m not an anti-Semite,” Warnock said Thursday on MSNBC when asked about Loeffler’s attack on social media that he backed an “anti-Zionist” movement. “I’ve never defended anti-Semitic comments from anyone. And Kelly Loeffler knows better.”

The second ad opens with an image of school children pledging allegiance to the flag as a narrator warns of an attempted takeover by the “radical left.”

It rattles off a burst of attacks, including a grainy clip of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro appearing at a New York church where Warnock worked in 1995. His campaign said he was a junior staffer at the time and wasn’t involved in the decision that brought Castro to the church.

The attacks underscore a new dynamic that’s fast surfaced in the nine-week runoff. Warnock managed to avoid damaging broadsides in the general election campaign while Loeffler and fellow Republican Doug Collins bruised and battered each other.

Now he’s the target of a barrage of GOP barbs, so much so that his first ad warned he would be maligned for offenses so benign as eating pizza with a fork.

“These ads are misleading and say a lot about Kelly Loeffler," said Warnock spokesman Terrence Clark. “One would think the Senator would have something good to say about herself but instead she’s resorting to the lowest of the low attacks to try and salvage her campaign.”

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