Loeffler’s campaign condemned the photo, saying she had ‘no idea’ the man she photographed with was a known white supremacist. Her actions, however, have drawn accusations of racism and homophobia before.
Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler is fighting to retain her seat in a special runoff election against Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock. She also keeps fighting allegations of racism and homophobia. Her pattern of offending then pleading ignorance has caused some to question whether she’s deliberately signaling to the worst elements of her base.
In Loeffler’s most recent flap, she took a picture at a campaign rally Friday with former Ku Klux Klan leader Chester Doles. Doles spent decades as an organizer in the KKK and the neo-Nazi National Alliance and served a felony sentence for almost beating a Black man to death in 1993. He marched with a racist skinhead gang in 2017 at the violent white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left one person dead and 28 injured. Sunday, Doles told the Associated Press he had “publicly renounced racism on several occasions in the past couple of years.” Still, his newly formed militia group has ties to white supremacists.
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Stephen Lawson, Loeffler’s campaign spokesman, issued a statement this week saying she was unaware of Doles’ ties. “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 told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
It’s the second time since fall she’s had to make that claim about him. Doles attended and was ejected from a rally in September headlined by Loeffler and Republican Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene. Then, too, she pleaded ignorance.
“This is not the first time Loeffler has had to try to explain why Chester Doles, a longtime white supremacist who spent decades in the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazi National Alliance and is associated with a racist skinhead gang, is appearing at her campaign events,” Warnock’s campaign spokesman Michael Brewer wrote in a statement. “When Doles went to a GOP rally in September, Loeffler claimed she was ‘unaware of Doles or the controversy over his attendance.’ Today, just weeks later, Loeffler’s campaign is again trying to use the same excuse that they ‘had no idea who that was.’”
Bend the Arc, a Jewish advocacy group, tweeted: “Kelly Loeffler’s campaign claims she didn’t know who Chester Doles is. But he was removed from a Loeffler & Marjorie Taylor Greene rally in September — and Loeffler said the same thing then. Doesn’t work twice. @KLoeffler is embracing white supremacy.”
Loeffler’s actions have drawn accusations of racism and homophobia before. She disparaged the Black Lives Matter movement, contributed financially to anti-LGBTQ+ organizations, and as recently as this week fought a name change of the Atlanta Braves when none was even on the table.
“I adamantly oppose the Black Lives Matter political movement, which has advocated for the defunding of police,” she wrote in a public statement this summer. Loeffler, who’s also part owner of the Atlanta Dream women’s pro basketball team where several players are Black and gay, continued, “I believe it is totally misaligned with the values and goals of the WNBA and the Atlanta Dream, where we support tolerance and inclusion.”
Dream players organized against her, sporting shirts that read “Vote Warnock” on the court.
The billionaire senator also pledged to donate her $174,000 Congressional salary to Georgia charities. News emerged that instead, she’s been enriching “crisis pregnancy centers,” organizations posing as abortion providers that make pregnant people sit through anti-choice propaganda in hopes of preventing the procedure. Covenant Care Adoptions, an agency that equates gay relationships with bestiality and incest and refuses to serve LGBTQ+ people, has also benefited from her generosity. In September, Loeffler sponsored a bill to ban trans girls from school sports.
Warnock, her Democratic challenger, has an established reputation for speaking out in support of LGBTQ+ people. The senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. once led, has upheld King’s legacy of advocating for civil rights, including those of the LGBTQ+ community.
Following the 2016 massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, Warnock challenged listeners to understand how homophobic rhetoric contributes to hate crimes.
“This is a time to grieve, to mourn, and to consider what it means to stigmatize people,” Warnock said. “Religious communities have played a particular role in… marginalizing gay and lesbian and transgender people.”
Loeffler has repeatedly sought to portray Warnock as “a radical liberal” who’s out of touch with average Georgians. Her campaign may want to pay more attention to the audience she’s courting.