Georgia US Senate candidate Raphael Warnock’s support of Barack Obama’s ex-pastor — Rev. Jeremiah Wright — has emerged as a campaign issue in Warnock’s run-off election.
Warnock, also a preacher, praised Wright after his controversial “God Damn America” sermon surfaced when Obama first ran for president in 2008, Fox News reports.
At the time, Obama advisers fretted that the replaying of Wright’s fiery sermon might cost the candidate the presidency.
“No no no, not God bless America, God damn America, that’s in the Bible, for killing innocent people,” Wright thundered in the videotaped sermon.
“God damn America for treating her citizens as less than human, God damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and she is supreme,” Wright had said.
Warnock said he was “dispatched” to defend Wright after a tape of the 2003 sermon went public.
Warnock is senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the pulpit where civil rights icon Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached.
“We celebrate Rev. Wright in the same way that we celebrate the truth-telling tradition of the black church, which when preachers tell the truth, very often it makes people uncomfortable,” Warnock said in a 2008 appearance on Fox News.
“And I think the country has been done a disservice by this constant playing over and over again of the same soundbites outside of context,” he said, before noting MLK once said, “America is the greatest purveyor of violence today.”
He described Wright as a “preacher and a prophet.”
Wright also was criticized for other provocative remarks. After the Sept. 11 attacks, he said that “America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”
The Chicago preacher also blamed “them Jews” after Obama cut ties with him after becoming president.
Earlier this year, Warnock stood by his support of Wright.
Warnock also rebutted accusations from his GOP opponent, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, that he was anti-Semitic by his links to Wright.
Warnock was also criticized by conservative Jews for a videotaped anti-Israel sermon of his own addressing settlement activity — after the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, provoking Palestinian protests marred by violence.
In another sermon, the Georgia Democrat and preacher said America “should repent for its whiteness.”
“I know Rev. Wright,” Warnock told MSNBC’s Willie Geist. “I’m not an anti-Semite. I’ve never defended anti-Semitic comments from anyone and Kelly Loeffler knows better,” he said, accusing her of “division and distraction.”
“Any fair-thinking person would recognize that everything a government does, even the American government, is not consistent with God’s dream for the world,” Warnock said.
“And preaching at its best points out those contradictions but then shows us the path forward.”
A Warnock spokesman insisted the Democratic candidate is pro-Israel.
“The reservations he has expressed about settlement activity do not change his strong support for Israel and belief in its security — which is exactly why he opposes ending direct military aid to such a strong ally.”
The two Senate run-offs on Jan. 5 will determine whether Republicans or Democrats control the chamber.