Georgia GOP Senator Kelly Loefller Blasts Dem Opponent for Saying America Needs to 'Repent for Its Worship of Whiteness'

A U.S. Republican senator from Georgia criticized her Democratic opponent on Saturday after a video resurfaced of him delivering a sermon in which he said "America needs to repent for its worship of whiteness."

Kelly Loeffler, a 49-year-old businesswoman, is up for re-election against Rev. Raphael Warnock, a 51-year-old Baptist preacher. The pair will enter a runoff election on January 5 after neither candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote during the general election.

Loeffler tweeted a video of Warnock giving a sermon on October 20, 2016, at Emory University, calling his rhetoric "disgusting and offensive." In the 40-second clip, Warnock appears to be referring to President Donald Trump, of whom Loeffler is a strong supporter.

"And if it is true that a man who has dominated the news and poisoned the discussion for months needs to repent, then it is doubly true that a nation that can produce such a man and make his vitriol go viral needs to repent," Warnock said. "No matter what happens next month, more than a third of the nation that would go along with this is reason to be afraid. America needs to repent for its worship of whiteness on full display."

Trump would go on to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton just 19 days later in the 2016 general election. Loeffler blasted the preacher for his message on Saturday, writing "THIS is what division and fear looks like."

.@ReverendWarnock, THIS is what division and fear looks like.

We are ALL God’s children.

This rhetoric is disgusting and offensive. #gapol #gasen pic.twitter.com/z5qx8Upa1s

— Kelly Loeffler (@KLoeffler) November 14, 2020

In the full 20-minute sermon, entitled "How Towers Tumble," Warnock discusses Genesis 11:4, when members of the human race, fearing being scattered across earth, want to construct a tower reaching the heavens.

"Somebody lied and told them that uniformity, that sameness, homogeneity, was the key to their survival. Somebody lied and told them that diversity was a threat to their identity," Warnock said.

Warnock, speaking about the merit of constructing such ideological towers, told the crowd that "God made all human beings in God's image" and it was humans who decided that "some human beings are better than other human beings."

"That's a construction," he said. "It's called bigotry, it's called racism and sexism and misogyny and xenophobia. Race is not a biological factor, it's a sociological construct. God made us, but we make stuff up."

Warnock, who has never held public office, buried a political message inside his sermon. "We have constructed towers of domination that lift up a few, structures of evil that God never intended in the first place. When the quality of your education and access to basic health care is a function of your ZIP code, the whole city suffers. And the tower tumbles."

The preacher foreshadowed the 2016 election, telling the crowd that "fierce winds of change are blowing through our nation in this moment."

"When the wind blows, sometimes you have to bend, you have to recognize what's going on in the world in order to keep from breaking. In other words, you have to repent," he said.

After describing what it means to repent, Warnock then spoke directly about Trump and his supporters—the portion of the sermon Loeffler tweeted.

"How is it that you can insult everybody?" Warnock said. "All Muslims 'something other than children of God,' all Mexicans 'murderers and rapists.' Insult the disabled. How is it you can insult everybody, but then one weekend, somebody discovers in a recording that you insult those whose daughters and wives look like those who have been supporting you, and then all of a sudden we can't take it anymore."

Warnock was referring to the 2005 Access Hollywood tape published by The Washington Post on October 7, 2016, in which Trump was caught on a hot microphone using vulgar language to describe grabbing women by their genitals without their consent. Trump said in the video: "I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it, you can do anything...grab them by the p----."

"Repent for the worship of whiteness, its worship of money and fame and celebrity and power," Warnock said. "The only thing more foul than what he's been saying is what we've been doing. That tape has been playing for a long time."

In a statement sent to Newsweek, Terrence Clark, Warnock's campaign communications director, provided context for the sermon in question:

"This sermon was delivered just days after the release of the Access Hollywood tape and Reverend Warnock observed that many people had tolerated then candidate Trump's hateful comments toward people with disabilities and marginalized communities, and only expressed outrage after that tape came out. Kelly Loeffler claims to have never heard of the Access Hollywood tape but she certainly knows about the politics of division that she's using to lie about Reverend Warnock's words and record. As the Senior Pastor of Martin Luther King's church, Reverend Warnock has spent his life rooting out bigotry, discrimination and hatred in all its forms, which is exactly what this sermon was about."

A reporter for local station WXIA asked Loeffler about the Access Hollywood tape on October 28, telling the senator, "You're still not disagreeing with President Trump's statements about personally sexually assaulting women."

"I'm not familiar with that," Loeffler replied.

Kelly Loeffler
Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler speaks to supporters during a Save Our Majority campaign rally with Senator Marco Rubio on November 11 in Marietta, Georgia. Loeffler criticized her Democratic opponent on November 14 after a video resurfaced of him delivering a sermon in which he said “America needs to repent for its worship of whiteness.” Jessica McGowan/Getty

The runoff election is expected to be tight, with a recent poll placing the two candidates at a virtual toss-up. A national GOP-leaning pollster, Remington Research Group, found voters to slightly favor Loeffler at 49 percent, compared to Warnock's 48 percent. The survey of 1,450 likely voters was conducted November 8-9.

A New York Times/Siena College poll last month found Warnock led Loeffler 45 percent to 41 percent, with a 4.1-point margin of error. A separate Quinnipiac University poll last month found likely voters favored Warnock 52 percent to Loeffler's 44 percent in a head-to-head race, with a 3-point margin of error.

Update (11/14/20, 3:19 p.m.): This article has been updated to include a comment from the Warnock campaign.