Jon Ossoff calls out racist attacks by Republicans ahead of Georgia runoff

EXCLUSIVE: Ossoff tells theGrio that attacks against him and Rev. Raphael Warnock is an attempt to 'distract us with racism and bigotry'

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff slammed his and Democratic colleague Rev. Raphael Warnock‘s Republican opponents for their racist campaign attacks in the final weeks before the closely watched Senate runoff elections on Jan. 5.

In a recent exclusive interview with theGrio, Ossoff dismissed incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue, who has referred to Ossoff as a “radical” who supports a “socialist agenda,” as well as Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who had repeatedly called Senate candidate Rev. Warnock a “radical liberal” — a total of 13 times during their debate on Dec. 6.

“I dismiss them. This is just like garden variety paint by numbers, partisan nonsense,” Ossoff told theGrio.

Read More: Loeffler says there ‘isn’t a racist bone’ in her body at debate, refuses to say Trump lost election

Ossoff, a 33-year-old investigative journalist, more pointedly called out the racism in Perdue and Loeffler’s attacks against him and Warnock, who is the senior pastor at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, which was once led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “The attacks that they’re running against Reverend Warnock, yes, they’re racialized and racist and intended to other him,” he said.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Ossoff, who is Jewish, called out his opponent Perdue for enlarging his nose in a campaign ad earlier this summer that was later deleted. His campaign team called it an “unintentional error.”

“David Perdue, my opponent, a virulent anti-Semite, lengthened my nose in an attack ad to remind everybody that I’m a Jew and then refused to apologize for it even after the Jewish community here demanded an apology,” Ossoff told theGrio.

Read More: Sen. David Perdue claimed he was discriminated against as a white man

The young Democratic Senate hopeful said the attacks by Perdue and Loeffler — and the Republican Party at large — is a historically racist strategy used from a political playbook from years past.

“The GOP strategy in the South since [President Richard] Nixon has been something called the Southern Strategy, and it’s about dividing people along racial and cultural lines,” said Ossoff.

“The reason that they want to divide us is so that we can’t build the multiracial coalition that Reverend Warnock and I are building to demand health, jobs and justice, because all Georgians, Black, white, Asian, Latino, Native American, all Georgians, deserve and need health, jobs and justice.”

Georgia Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. (Photo: Getty Images)

While his opponents are trafficking in old racist political tropes, Ossoff said he would much rather focus on the work he plans to do if elected to the U.S. Senate in January. That legislative agenda includes passing a new Civil Rights Act to end racial profiling and police brutality and “empowering doctors and scientists to fight COVID-19 and get economic relief to people who need it.”

“They don’t want that to be the focus because they know that these are popular policies. So they want to distract us with racism and bigotry,” Ossoff added.

Racial justice has been a consistent theme in Ossoff’s campaign. Just last week, the Democrat released a campaign ad called “The Talk,” which addresses the all too common conversation Black parents traditionally have with their sons about how to maneuver a society that too often views them as a threat.

Read More: Jon Ossoff tackles police brutality, racial injustice in new ad ‘The Talk’

“I really wanted to focus on this issue because it is so long past time that we passed a new Civil Rights Act,” Ossoff told theGrio.

“Those painful conversations in Black families that many white families aren’t even aware of — about how young people need to carry themselves and walk and talk and dress and how to be extra careful to avoid being assaulted or killed — that’s so wrong that we have to have those kinds of conversations in America.”

Ossoff said we should look no further than the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in February, which local law enforcement authorities were slow to make any arrests in until, of course, a national groundswell of outrage in the form of protests across the country pressured them to do so.

“Our Constitution is already meant to guarantee equal protection under the law, but when Ahmaud Arbery is shot and killed in broad daylight in the street on camera in Glynn County, Georgia, and police and prosecutors look the other way because he’s a young Black man — that makes a mockery of equal protection under the law,” Ossoff said.

Ahmaud Arbery
Ahmaud Arbery (Credit: Ahmaud Arbery)

“We need national standards for the use of force. We need real accountability for officers, departments, prosecutors or judges where there’s profiling or brutality or race or class bias. We need a new civil rights act and we can pass a new civil rights act if we win these Senate races in Georgia.”

Ossoff is no stranger to the work of social justice and advocating for civil rights. His very first job in politics was as a young intern for the late Civil Rights icon, Congressman John Lewis. In a new campaign ad called Selma, which was released on Thursday, Ossoff recalls how Lewis helped shape his values and commitment to seeking justice for all Americans.

Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff (C) and his girlfriend, Alisha Kramer, listen as Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) endorses him during a meet and greet with voters at a cookout as he runs for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District on June 17, 2017 in Sandy Springs, Georgia. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“Congressman Lewis gave me my first job. He instilled in me the conviction to fight for justice. He said to never give in, never give up, keep the faith and keep our eyes on the prize,” Ossoff says in the commercial.

“The promise of equal justice in America remains unfulfilled. So together we’ll fight for a new Civil Rights Act and a new Voting Rights Act to ensure equal justice for all no matter the color of our skin, to end racial profiling and police brutality, and to stop anyone from suppressing the sacred right to vote.” 

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