The top Democratic candidate in the special Senate election in Georgia defended anti-Semitic pastor Jeremiah Wright back in 2008.

Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, defended Wright after a tape emerged of a 2003 sermon called “Confusing God and Government” in which Wright said, “not God Bless America, God damn America.”

The tape came to light during Barack Obama’s presidential run in 2008, as Obama was at the time a member of Wright’s church in Chicago. During the campaign, Obama disavowed the remarks and eventually withdrew his membership from the church.

“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisoners, passes a three-strike law, and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America,’ ” said Wright in the sermon. “No no no, not God bless America, God damn America, that’s in the Bible, for killing innocent people, 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.”

In a March 2008 appearance on Fox News, Warnock, who said that he had been “dispatched” to defend Wright after the tape emerged, praised the “social transformation that’s been the hallmark of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s ministry.”

“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,” said Warnock in response to the sermon and other remarks.

He also said, “I think the country has been done a disservice by this constant playing over and over again of the same soundbites outside of context.”

Wright has a history of making other provocative statements, including ones that are anti-Semitic. Examples have included blaming “them Jews” for not being able to be in contact with Obama after he won the White House, and stating that “ethnic cleansing is going on in Gaza. Ethnic cleansing of the Zionist is a sin and a crime against humanity, and they don’t want Barack talking like that because that’s anti-Israel.”

Warnock is running in a special election to serve the remaining two years of the term of Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), against incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp after Isakson retired in 2019 for health reasons. He also faces off against GOP Rep. Doug Collins and seven Democrats, including Matt Lieberman, a son of former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

In accordance with Georgia electoral law, if no candidate gets at least 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between the top two finishers will be held in January.

On Nov. 3, all candidates for Isakson’s seat, regardless of partisan affiliation, will be on the ballot. According to many polls, Warnock is the Democrat most likely to advance to the expected run-off unless the January election ends up being between Loeffler and Collins—a possibility with Lieberman playing spoiler to Warnock’s chances. Otherwise, the special election would likely be between the two Georgia Republican members of Congress.

As of March, Warnock stood by his defense of Wright.

“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,” he said. “And preaching at its best points out those contradictions but then shows us the path forward.”

A Warnock campaign spokesperson told Fox News that the candidate “deplores and disagrees with any kind of remark that is anti-Semitic or discriminates against anyone.”

“He doesn’t agree with all of the positions other pastors support and has said such throughout this campaign,” said spokesperson Terrence Clark. “Rev. Warnock loves this country, and he supports honoring the dignity of all people, but also finding common ground to reform our broken systems. Once again, our opponents are playing the same Washington games to try to divide and distract people instead of standing up for health care in the middle of a pandemic.”

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