More than 100 religious leaders in Georgia have come together to release an open letter slamming Senator Kelly Loeffler for her explicitly racial attacks on her opponent, Reverend Raphael Warnock, according to The New York Times.
They called the ads and statements Loeffler has been making "a broader attack against the Black Church and faith traditions for which we stand."
“We call upon you, Kelly Loeffler to cease your false attacks on Reverend Warnock’s social justice theological and faith traditions which visualizes a just and ardent world where love, fairness and equal justice under the law for marginalized people of all races is not only accepted as an authentic prophetic message in the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, but also a central message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” the letter read.
"We call on you to cease and desist your false characterizations of Reverend Warnock as ‘radical’ or ‘socialist,’ when there is nothing in his background, writings or sermons that suggests those characterizations to be true, especially when taken in full context. We see your attacks against Warnock as a broader attack against the Black Church and faith traditions for which we stand,” they added.
Loeffler and Warnock are in a heated race for one of Georgia's two Senate seats that will be up for grabs in January, as Blavity previously reported. The races have drawn a national spotlight because the two elections will decide which party has a majority in the very powerful Senate.
Nearly $500 million has been spent on advertising in the race, according to The New York Times.
But since the runoffs were announced after Election Day, Republicans and conservative media outlets have unleashed a tidal wave of attacks against Warnock, repeatedly referring to him as a "socialist" and a "radical liberal," while releasing heavily-edited or deliberately misinterpreted parts of his sermons.
Even the Republican running in the other race, Senator David Perdue, largely ignores his white opponent and also focuses his attacks on Warnock.
A Media Matters report found that between November 17 and December 7, Fox News has spent more than 45 minutes covering Warnock's sermons while CNN spent just three minutes on it. The New York Times noted that during a recent debate, Loeffler called Warnock a "radical liberal" 13 times, and the words are featured heavily in dozens of attack ads.
They’re despicable. Georgia, vote for decency on January 5. pic.twitter.com/XQphLDE4Wy
— (((Michael Weiss))) (@reallazermike) December 11, 2020
The ads have tried to tie Warnock to the movement to "defund the police" and Fox News has been successful in creating multiple manufactured scandals over Warnock's sermons.
Last month, an entire news cycle was spent focusing on one line from a 45-minute sermon where Warnock quotes a passage from the bible about serving two masters. This is a classic passage from the Bible used extensively by pastors across the world quite often, yet Fox News cut out a clip where Warnock said, “America, nobody can serve God and the military. You can’t serve God and money.”
"It was a sermon about a moral foundation for everything that we do. And that when you have everything in order, that actually makes you a better soldier. It also makes you a better senator," Warnock explained at a later debate where Loeffler pressed him about the sermon.
Fox News and Loeffler have also spent extended amounts of time covering an event Warnock attended while effectively interning for a church in New York decades ago. The church hosted former Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Warnock was in attendance, but Republicans have used the event in dozens of attack ads.
Religious leaders were further outraged recently when Loeffler's former rival, and now her surrogate, Rep. Doug Collins, criticized Warnock for his support of abortion.
“There is no such thing as a pro-choice pastor. What you have is a lie from the bed of hell. It is time to send it back to Ebenezer Baptist Church,” Collins said after ripping into Warnock, according to Media Matters.
For many religious leaders in Georgia, Collins' criticism of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church was a bridge too far.
Warnock shared the open letter on Twitter and ended up getting into a back-and-forth with Loeffler over it.
"My faith is the foundation upon which I have built my life. It guides my service to my community and my country. Loeffler's attacks on our faith are not just disappointing — they are hurtful to Black churches across Georgia," he wrote on Twitter.
My faith is the foundation upon which I have built my life. It guides my service to my community and my country. @KLoeffler's attacks on our faith are not just disappointing — they are hurtful to Black churches across Georgia. https://t.co/95KlttxG0s
— Reverend Raphael Warnock (@ReverendWarnock) December 20, 2020
Loeffler quickly responded.
"No one attacked the Black church. We simply exposed your record in your own words. Instead of playing the victim, start answering simple questions about what you’ve said and who you’ve associated yourself with. If you can’t — you shouldn’t be running for U.S. Senate," she wrote.
No one attacked the Black church. We simply exposed your record in your own words.
Instead of playing the victim, start answering simple questions about what you’ve said and who you’ve associated yourself with.
If you can’t — you shouldn’t be running for U.S. Senate. https://t.co/j06y2mwlCm
— Kelly Loeffler (@KLoeffler) December 20, 2020
Loeffler's response was confusing for many because she has been embroiled in a controversy over who she associates herself with.
— Reverend Raphael Warnock (@ReverendWarnock) December 20, 2020
Multiple photos have shown Loeffler meeting with white supremacist leaders in the state. HuffPost found that she met with multiple white supremacist extremist groups throughout her time campaigning.
Even Warnock took note of the hypocrisy, sharing a photo of her with white supremacist leader Chester Doles.
Even the letter sent by the religious letters references Loeffler's criticism of Black Lives Matter protests and her embrace of white supremacist groups.
“You characterized these campaigns as mobs and lawlessness but remained silent on the antics of the Proud Boys, and the Wolverine Watchmen, both far-right neo-fascist groups that engage in political violence, the latter of which attempted to kidnap the seated Governor of Michigan; an act for which 13 members have been indicted,” the letter read.
Some activists have slammed Facebook for allowing Republican groups to promote hundreds of ads featuring false representations of Warnock's views or associations.
UPDATE: On Thursday, I flagged an ad on Facebook by American Crossroads that contained a blatantly false attack on Warnock.
It was debunked by a Facebook fact-checking partner and removed.
But now, American Crossroads has republished THE EXACT SAME AD pic.twitter.com/PV4eaokSQS
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) December 21, 2020
The letter from the religious leaders criticized Loeffler for scandalizing parts of Warnock's sermons and her long past of making racially insensitive remarks.
“Through your silence, you demonstrated your disdain for Black elected officials and Black Lives Matter marches,” the letter read.