Since then, Republicans have run some additional misleading ads attacking both Democratic candidates, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. Here’s a breakdown of two of these ads.
Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler has made a concerted effort to portray Warnock, the senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, as “radical” and “dangerous.”
Facts First: All of these Loeffler ads misleadingly take Warnock’s remark out of context. He was advocating the release of people jailed for marijuana offenses in particular, not a general release of people jailed for all kinds of offenses.
Here’s what he said: “Marijuana is seen as an illegal substance. It’s a terrible irony, and we feel it, that right now in America, there are some folk who are becoming billionaires for selling the same stuff that’s got our children locked up all across America. Where is the justice? It’s not enough to decriminalize marijuana. Somebody’s gotta open up the jails and let our children go.”
Loeffler is free to criticize Warnock for advocating the release of people incarcerated for marijuana offenses. But the ads create the impression that he was advocating some sort of mass amnesty for all incarcerated criminals. He was not.
“Reverend Warnock supports efforts to expunge the records of those convicted of non-violent cannabis-related offenses and has worked in the community to help expunge records so that Georgians who have served their sentence may seek employment and housing opportunities without discrimination,” the Warnock campaign said in an email to CNN.
Ossoff and a Senate committee
The ad uses the Ossoff revision to suggest he has a “China scandal,” claiming the Democrat was “paid by the Communist Chinese government through a media company.” The ad goes on to insinuate that the payment was suspicious, asking pointedly, “Why did China really pay Ossoff?”
There is no evidence for the ad’s suggestion that Chinese government paid Ossoff for nefarious reasons. Ossoff’s campaign says his company received about $1,000 in royalties because the Hong Kong media company, PCCW, aired two of its investigations about ISIS war crimes.
We can’t independently corroborate the Ossoff campaign’s explanation about the reason for the payment, nor the total amount, but neither the Purdue campaign nor anybody else has provided a credible alternative explanation or alternative figure. And a modest fee for licensing documentaries — to a media businessman, from a media company in which the government of China is not the majority owner — would certainly not be enough to justify the ad’s portrayal of Ossoff as a suspicious stooge for China.
Further, the Ossoff campaign says the payment of about $1,000 was actually made to Ossoff’s company not by the Hong Kong company itself but by a third-party media production and distribution company, Sky Vision, that licensed the investigations to the Hong Kong company (as well as to other companies around the world).
The campaign says Ossoff listed PCCW itself on his amended disclosure forms because he wanted to be transparent about who was airing his company’s productions. The campaign says transparency is also the reason he listed PCCW on the forms even though the payment was below the $5,000 threshold at which reporting is required.