Things are tight and tense in the Georgia runoff election that wraps up today as residents go to the polls to elect two senators. Looking to stoke racist sentiment among her mainly white voters, Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) ran a paid Facebook ad last week that artificially darkened the skin color of her Democratic opponent, Rev. Raphael Warnock.
The campaign used two of the same clips in their original and untouched version for a separate Facebook ad that ran the same day yet Loeffler’s campaign paid 10 times more to boost the version in which Warnock’s skin appeared darker.
On Dec. 29, the Loeffler campaign spent between $3,000 and $3,500 on an ad called “Too Radical. Too Corrupt,” and spent between $40,000 and $45,000 on a second ad titled “Beyond Radical Raphael,” which uses some of the same footage, but with Warnock’s skin distinctly darkened, Salon reported.
Warnock’s skin was darker throughout the second ad, including in a video clip from a sermon Warnock gave in 2011 at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. Warnock is senior pastor at Ebenezer, the former pulpit of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
As of Jan. 4, the second ad had around 1 million impressions. Not only is Warnock’s skin darker in the second ad, the language used in the ad is also much more aggressive.
The text in the first ad claimed that “Raphael Warnock is a Radical Liberal” who “was educated by Marxists.” The caption for the darkened-skin ad read that Warnock is “beyond Radical,” and was “trained by Marxists.” It ends: “Warnock isn’t just radical — he’s dangerous.” Many saw the text in combination with Warnock’s darker skin that Loeffler was playing into the fear some whites have of the “dangerous Black man.”
Here’s what Twitter had to say.
Warnock campaign spokesperson Terrence Clark told Salon, “Given that Kelly Loeffler has run the single most negative campaign in Georgia history, there is no level she could stoop to that would surprise us.”
Loeffler recently experienced backlash for appearing in a photo with Chester Doles, a white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan imperial wizard who has extensive ties to the neo-Nazi movement.
“She is literally campaigning with a Klansman so not surprising,” a tweeter pointed out.
Stephen Lawson, a Loeffler campaign spokesman, made excuses to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Kelly had no idea who that was, and if she had she would have kicked him out immediately because we condemn in the most vociferous terms everything that he stands for,” Lawson said.
There was no word from the campaign about the Warnock ad.
Loeffler isn’t the first to darken the skin of a Black political opponent. During the 2020 campaign, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) ran a Facebook ad that featured his Democratic challenger, Jaime Harrison, who is Black, with darkened skin, Salon reported.
Meanwhile, the Georgia Senate campaigns aren’t only full of racist attacks but also ethnic and religious. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., the incumbent in Georgia’s other Senate runoff election, infamously mocked Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ name at an October Trump rally.
Perdue referred to Kamala Harris as “Ka-MAla, or, what? Kamala? Or Ka-MAla, Ka-MAla-mala-mala, I don’t know, whatever,” New York Magazine reported.
And in July, the Perdue campaign was forced to remove an ad that appeared to enlarge the nose of his Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff, who is Jewish, amid criticism that it was anti-Semitic.
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Loeffler’s backlash is not only coming from the public but from the WNBC team, Atlanta Dream, that she has co-owned since 2011.
Back in June, the billionaire was criticized by fans and players after she wrote an open letter to WNBA Commissioner Cathy Englebert opposing plans to honor the Black Lives Matter movement. In turn, many of the players have since taken to wearing T-shirts supporting Warnock, Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“Kelly Loeffler is a racist and liar. Her own WNBA team hates her,” a Twitter user posted, accompanied by a photo of Dream team members wearing “Vote Warnock” shirts.