Former Obama administration official Marie Harf on Thursday described Georgia Senate candidate Raphael Warnock as a political “moderate” despite his history of leftist, anti-Israel comments, as well as his praise of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
“We elected a moderate as president, Joe Biden, and when you look at Rev. Warnock, who is running against [Sen.] Kelly Loeffler, when you look at Jon Ossoff, who is running against [Sen.] David Perdue: They are not far-left candidates,” said Ms. Harf, a former Obama State Department senior adviser, on Fox’s “Outnumbered.” “They are moderate candidates.”
Her defense came with Democrats struggling to counter a deluge of GOP criticism aimed at Mr. Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, who is challenging the Republican Loeffler in one of the two Georgia run-off races that will determine control of the Senate.
A poll released Wednesday by the Kansas-based Remington Research Group showed Ms. Loeffler and Mr. Warnock virtually tied at 49% to 48%, while Mr. Perdue led Mr. Ossoff by 50% to 46%.
The Loeffler campaign released an ad Wednesday accusing Mr. Warnock of being “anti-Israel,” sympathetic to “Marxists and Socialists,” and a “proud defender of anti-American anti-Semitic pastor Jeremiah Wright, who suggested America deserved the 9/11 terror attacks.”
“Raphael Warnock is too extreme for Georgia,” the ad concludes.
Warnock for Georgia spokesperson Terrence Clark said it was “clear that our opponent is trying to find a way to misrepresent who Reverend Warnock is and scare Georgians.”
“But that does not change the fact as the Senior Pastor of Martin Luther King’s church, Reverend Warnock has always condemned hatred and bigotry no matter the source,” said Mr. Clark in an email.
At the same time, Mr. Warnock has given conservatives grist for their mill. In his 2014 book, “The Divided Mind of the Black Church,” he writes, “To be sure, the Marxist critique has much to teach the Black church,” as flagged by Breitbart.
“Indeed, it has played an important role in the maturation of black theology as an intellectual discipline, deepened black theology’s apprehension of the interconnectivity of racial and class oppression and provided critical tools for a black church that has yet to awaken to a substantive third world consciousness,” said the excerpt.
He has touted his endorsements by Sens. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, leaders of the Democratic Party’s left wing, as well as Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Progressive Turnout Project.
Mr. Warnock was on the staff of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem when it hosted Cuban strongman Fidel Castro in 1995, although the Warnock campaign told Fox News that he was a junior pastor at the time and not involved in the decision to invite the communist dictator.
In 2008, Mr. Warnock defended Rev. Wright’s infamous “God damn America” sermon as part of the “truth-telling tradition of the Black church,” saying the remark was taken out of context and praising the Chicago pastor as “a preacher and a prophet.”
In a 2015 sermon, Mr. Warnack used the word “thug” to describe police, decrying “police power showing up in a kind of gangster and thug mentality” in Ferguson, Missouri, site of the 2014 Michael Brown shooting.
In a 2018 sermon, Mr. Warnock said, “It’s been a tough week. The Trump administration opened up the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem,” before blasting the Israeli government, saying its soldiers “shoot down unarmed Palestinian sisters and brothers like birds of prey.”
In 2019, Mr. Warnock signed a letter headed by the leftist National Council of Churches comparing Israel control of the West Bank to “previous oppressive regimes” such as “apartheid South Africa.”
Mr. Warnock sought to counter the anti-Israel narrative with a statement earlier this week to Jewish Insider entitled “I Stand With Israel,” accusing the Loeffler campaign of “misrepresenting my views for political gain.”
“Without reservation, you can count on me to stand with the Jewish community and Israel in the U.S. Senate,” Mr. Warnock said in the statement.
Even so, the Republican Jewish Coalition was skeptical.
“Just last year Warnock signed a letter comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa,” tweeted the RJC. “He even defended the pro-terrorist, anti-Israel Rev. Wright. Now he want’s to be a Senator, so he says he’s pro-Israel. Believe his actions, not his self serving words.”
Rev. Wright has been accused for years of making anti-Semitic remarks, such as telling the Virginia Daily Press in a 2009 interview that he was unable to contact President Barack Obama because “Them Jews aren’t going to let him talk to me.”
In a Thursday appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Mr. Warnock disputed allegations of anti-Semitism but did not condemn Rev. Wright.
“I know Rev. Wright. I’m not an anti-Semite. I’ve never defended anti-Semitic comments from anyone, and Kelly Loeffler knows better,” Mr. Warnock said. “She is trying to engage in the same old Washington politics of division and distraction.”