A rare Republican-against-Fox News fight burst into the headlines Thursday night when Wayne Johnson, who finished third in the 2nd District GOP primary, sued Fox News and Jeremy Hunt, the candidate who finished first, for racketeering and conspiring to get Hunt elected.
Johnson and Hunt were both at the Bibb County GOP meeting Thursday night, along with the second-place finisher Chris West. At the meeting, Hunt and Johnson wrangled about the lawsuit.
Jeremy Hunt & Chris West meet in a runoff Tuesday. The winner is hoping to unseat the 30-year seat holder, Democrat Sanford Bishop.
Wayne Johnson, Hunt and West are all at the Bibb County GOP meeting tonight and went back and forth re: the lawsuit.
The trouble, according to Johnson, started back in February, when Hunt, a frequent Fox News guest before he declared his candidacy, continued to appear on Fox platforms and have access to the network’s conservative audience after he joined the race.
WRBL’s Chuck Williams reported that Johnson complained in writing to Fox News Channel CEO Suzanne Scott throughout the primary that Hunt was getting unfair and unequal airtime and using it to promote himself and raise money for his campaign.
In a February appearance on Fox Business that Johnson complained about, Hunt spoke as a banner below him read, “Jeremy Hunt Georgia Congressional Candidate (R) Going Back to an ‘America First’ Approach.”
At the end of the interview, host Larry Kudlow said, “It’s a terrific message, Jeremy, I hope you do fabulously well in your race.”
In another appearance on Jesse Watters’ show on May 7, ostensibly to talk about the hosts of the View saying a Black American cannot also be a Republican, Hunt spoke at length about his own campaign.
“We stand for faith, family, and community, that’s what our campaign is all about,” he said. “Feel free to look at our website at JeremyforGeorgia.com.”
Hunt has also promoted his appearances on his Twitter campaign feed.
“Hearing that some are concerned about missing my last appearance on Fox. You can check it out here!” he wrote after a segment earlier this week.
Hearing that some are concerned about missing my last appearance on Fox. You can check it out here! Thanks to everyone who tuned in! https://t.co/T7awjn0nXx
In the civil racketeering lawsuit, reported Thursday night by Nick Wooten at the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer and WRBL’s Williams, Johnson calls Fox News an “unlawful enterprise” and accuses Hunt, Fox News and host Brian Kilmeade of using Fox resources, which “ultimately amount to mail and wire fraud,” to get Hunt elected.
“This civil action aims to ensure the integrity of Georgia’s elections,” a press release announcing the action stated.
Hunt has hit back at the lawsuit, telling WMGT-TV Thursday night, “It’s just ridiculous that we have Republicans suing other Republicans because they came in third place,” he said.
Hunt now faces Chris West, who finished second in the May GOP primary, in a runoff Tuesday. The winner of that race will face incumbent U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop in November.
LISTEN UP. Herschel Walker did not make news by 7 a.m. Friday morning, but he is one of the top stories in Georgia politics we get to in the Friday edition of the Politically Georgia podcast.
Listen below or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.
PPP ATTACKS. Two runoff candidates’ use of Paycheck Protection Program funds from the coronavirus relief program have become attack lines on the campaign trail.
Vernon Jones has accused his opponent in the Republican runoff in Georgia’s 10th District, Mike Collins, of using the relief money to finance his campaign. Jeremy Hunt has also questioned his opponent in the 2nd District runoff, Chris West, about his use of PPP funds.
Collins and West have both said they did nothing improper by accessing the program during the height of pandemic lockdowns. More than 1 million companies of all sizes used the federal program intended to help businesses avoid layoffs.
Collins’ trucking company received a $920,000 forgivable PPP loan in April 2020. West’s law practice, of which he is the sole employee, received $20,833 from the program in May 2021.
Both men have self-funded their campaign to some extent, drawing more attention to their use of the PPP program. But there is no evidence that any federal dollars were mixed with the personal funds that went toward the campaign.
West wrote his campaign a check for $50,000 in March, but that is less than 20% of the total $286,691 he has raised since announcing his run in December.
Collins loaned his campaign $400,000 in June 2021, cut another $65,000 check in December and made a final $66,000 loan in March. That $531,000 total is nearly half of the $1.1 million he has raised in more than a year of campaigning.
Jones called Collins a “crook” during a recent debate, leading Collins to defend his use of PPP loans.
“Yes I participated in that program,” he said. “Yes, I had 100 employees out there: 100 truck drivers that needed help to keep food on their table. And that’s what we used that program for.”
PUBLIC SAFETY. Stacey Abrams rolled out her public safety plan this week, piecing together a string of policies and initiatives she had already outlined to bolster her challenge against Gov. Brian Kemp.
The three-page plan calls for the repeal of Republican-backed gun expansions signed into law over the last decade and seeks to revive a criminal justice council that then-Gov. Nathan Deal created.
Other provisions include calls for “wraparound services” for high-risk communities and support for red-flag legislation that allows a court to confiscate weapons from those deemed dangers to themselves or others.
What’s new is a promise to provide state incentives to local governments, law enforcement agencies and community groups that develop “violence intervention programs.”
Abrams is trying to get ahead of a likely spate of crime-related attacks from Republicans eager to blame the violence on liberal policies from left-leaning officials in Atlanta and other large cities.
“At a time when crime is rising, Stacey Abrams is planning to add more fuel to the fire,” said Garrison Douglas of the Republican National Committee.
Stacey Abrams’ public safety plan includes long-promised vows to repeal GOP-backed gun expansions and revive Gov. Deal’s criminal justice council. A newer wrinkle: She wants to incentivize local governments/agencies/groups that develop “violence intervention programs.” #gapolpic.twitter.com/TNkKY9xA0K
GEORGIA AND JANUARY 6. The January 6 Committee heard more testimony in Washington Thursday that showed how central Georgia was to Donald Trump’s effort to overturn his 2020 election loss.
The AJC’s David Wickert and our DC Insider, Tia Mitchell, have more:
A campaign rally in northwest Georgia on Jan. 4, 2021, was supposed to be about turning out Republican voters ahead of the U.S. Senate runoffs. But then-President Donald Trump used his speaking time to encourage his vice president to overturn Joe Biden's general election victory.
Falsely stating Biden had won fraudulently, Trump said he wanted Vice President Mike Pence to reject the Democrat's electoral votes during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.
“I hope Mike Pence comes through for us. ... He's a great guy," the president told the crowd. “Of course, if he doesn't come through, I won't like him quite as much."
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol highlighted these remarks during its hearing Thursday, saying they showed the intense pressure Pence faced to overturn the election.
- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
GET READY. Emergency preparedness officials will join U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff and Savannah Mayor Van Johnson this morning in coastal Georgia to discuss efforts to prepare the region for another hurricane season.
Ossoff and FEMA Deputy Administrator Erik Hooks to brief local leaders on the federal government’s plans to prepare for the potential coming storms and the high winds and damaging flooding they could bring.
MEGA-DEAL. The state of Georgia may just be getting started in its efforts to woo huge manufacturing operations to the state.
On Thursday, the AJC’s Scott Trubey reports that the state and a Peach County agency announced the purchase of more than 1,100 acres southwest of Macon Thursday for a manufacturing megasite, property that leaders said could suit the electric vehicle industry.
A similar megasite was a key draw for Hyundai’s recent commitment to build a new EV plant in Bryan County near the Georgia coast.
DEBT-FIXING AWARD. Fix the Debt, a project of the fiscally conservative Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, has awarded U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux its 2022 Fiscal Hero Award.
The Suwanee Democrat is among 19 senators and 31 U.S. House members receiving the award. Each year, the committee recognizes federal lawmakers who “work to improve the nation’s fiscal situation and fix the budget process.”
Bourdeaux faced criticism from progressives and fellow Democrats last year for joining a small group of moderates to separate the infrastructure spending bill from a larger social spending and climate change package. The infrastructure became law, while the other plan languished and ultimately fell apart.
The criticism helped fuel support for U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, who defeated Bourdeaux in the 7th District Democratic primary last month.
TODAY IN WASHINGTON:
The House and Senate are done for the week, returning on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden will hold a forum at the White House on climate change.
Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman is backing Rich McCormick in the GOP runoff in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. Freeman said in a statement that he trusts McCormick to remain tough on crime while limiting the role of government in everyday life. McCormick has also been endorsed by U.S. Rep. Greg Murphy of North Carolina, a fellow physician.
FIRST JUNETEENTH. Federal employees have Monday off, the first official recognition of Juneteenth since it it became a federal holiday last year. Juneteenth is also a paid holiday for state employees in Georgia. Gov. Brian Kemp signed that legislation in April.
The AJC’s Ernie Suggs has more about the history of Juneteenth, which marks the day that slaves in Texas learned about the Emancipation Proclamation that freed them, and the conversation happening now about how best to recognize the holiday.
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock will march in the Juneteenth Celebration Parade hosted by the Atlanta NAACP and the city of East Point on Saturday.