Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock, who has worked as senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta for 15 years, has come under heavy scrutiny for his past speeches, sermons, writings, and run-ins with police as he challenges Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff election.
Critics of Warnock have routinely labeled him “radical,” including Loeffler, who said during their last debate that Democrats “want to fundamentally change America, and the agent of change is my opponent, radical liberal Raphael Warnock.”
Below are nine of the most talked about issues, in no particular order, surrounding Warnock’s Senate candidacy:
1. Warnock’s Wife Calls Him a ‘Great Actor’ After Alleging He Drove over Her Foot
Warnock’s then-wife, Ouleye Ndoye, told police in March her husband is a “great actor” and “phenomenal at putting on a really good show” in bodycam footage of Ndoye commenting to Atlanta police right after a domestic dispute. Ndoye accused Warnock of running over her foot with a car, according to a police report obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Warnock denied the accusation at the time, and a medical examiner later said Ndoye’s foot did not show signs of injury.
The new bodycam footage shows Ndoye tearing up as she speaks to police after the incident, saying, “I’ve tried to keep the way that he acts under wraps for a long time, and today he crossed the line. So that is what is going on here, and he’s a great actor. He is phenomenal at putting on a really good show.”
Georgia Democrat Raphael Warnock's ex-wife on his character after he allegedly ran over her foot with his car:
"I've tried to keep the way he acts under wraps for a long time, & today he crossed the line… He is a great actor. He is phenomenal at putting on a really good show." pic.twitter.com/0SuLy1IPub
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) December 23, 2020
Warnock’s campaign responded to the footage by saying Loeffler “has now stooped to a new low of attacking his family.”
2. Warnock Defends Rev. Jeremiah Wright
Warnock has repeatedly defended Wright, who served as former pastor to President Barack Obama and is known for a number of incendiary statements — which Obama himself has condemned — including declaring that “America’s chickens are coming home to roost” in regard to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and giving an impassioned sermon in which he shouted several times, “God damn America!”
Speaking to Greta Van Susteren in a 2008 Fox News appearance, Warnock said, “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.”
During a 2013 speech, Warnock said Wright’s “God damn America” sermon was a “very fine homily entitled on confusing God and government” and that it was “consistent with black prophetic preaching.” Warnock argued Wright’s sermon had been taken out of context and noted that the black church was “barely understood by mainstream America.”
The Black Church Center for Justice and Equality posted a video in 2014 in which Warnock described Wright’s “God damn America” sermon as “Christian preaching at its best.”
3. Warnock Says America Needs to ‘Repent for Its Worship of Whiteness’
Warnock said while addressing Atlanta’s Candler School of Theology in 2016, just before the presidential election, that “America needs to repent for its worship of whiteness on full display.”
4. Warnock Says People Cannot Serve God and the Military
Warnock said in a 2011 sermon, “America, nobody can serve God and the military,” a clip of which has garnered close to three million views online since it surfaced in November. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) called Warnock’s words “an insult to everyone who served” — Georgia is home to several military installations, including Fort Benning, Fort Stewart, and Fort Gordon, and an analysis by 24/7 Wall St. found the state has the tenth-most active duty personnel in the country.
This is an insult to everyone who served.
Raphael Warnock should withdraw. pic.twitter.com/64EmmpYlEm
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) November 18, 2020
Responding to the criticism in a press conference, Warnock said the sermon was a “spiritual lesson” about priorities, saying “a person cannot have two masters.” He said, “My ultimate allegiance is to God, and therefore, whatever else that I may commit myself to, it has to be built on a spiritual foundation.”
5. Dr. James Cone Was Warnock’s ‘Mentor’
Warnock has described Dr. James Cone, who often defended Marxism and used provocative, race-fueled language, as his “mentor.” Cone served as Warnock’s academic adviser at the Union Theological Seminary, and Warnock considered Cone to be the “father of black theology.”
In My Soul Looks Back, Cone called for the “total reconstruction of society along the lines of democratic socialism.” In A Black Theology of Liberation, Cone argued that salvation comes from being like God and becoming “black” — that is, adopting total political solidarity with the black community. He determined that “satanic whiteness” makes “white religionists” incapable of “perceiving the blackness of God”; therefore, they must purge themselves of said whiteness. Cone wrote, “There will be no peace in America until white people begin to hate their whiteness, asking from the depths of their being: ‘How can we become black?’”
After his death, Warnock eulogized Cone, saying Cone “spoke with the power and the moral authority of a prophet.”
6. Church Where Warnock Was Pastor Hosts Fidel Castro
New York’s Abyssinian Baptist Church hosted communist Cuban dictator Fidel Castro while Warnock worked as a pastor there in 1995. Castro received a warm welcome at the gathering, including chants of “Fidel! Fidel! Fidel!”
In 2016, just after Castro’s death, Warnock said, “We remember Fidel Castro, whose legacy is complex. Don’t let anyone tell you a simple story; life usually isn’t very simple. His legacy is complex, kind of like America’s legacy is complex.”
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) December 10, 2020
Warnock has received enormous backlash for the association to Castro, who is widely considered responsible for thousands of innocent lives lost during his regime. Just last week, while campaigning in Georgia, South Carolina’s senior senator, Sen. Lindsey Graham, asked a crowd, “What kind of church is it that would invite Fidel Castro to come by and speak? Warnock is the most radical person to ever run for Senate in the history of Georgia.”
CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Warnock about the issue in November. Warnock said, “I was a youth pastor. I had nothing to do with that program. I did not make any decisions regarding the program. I have never met the Cuban dictator. And so I’m not connected to him.” Tapper pressed further, “But do you understand why people would be appalled by anyone celebrating Fidel Castro?” Warnock responded, “Well, absolutely. And I never have. What I’m putting forward in this race is American values.”
7. Warnock Defends Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam
In a 2013 sermon, Warnock praised the antisemitic Nation of Islam: “Its voice has been important, and its voice has been important even for the development of black theology,” Warnock said. As Breitbart News’s Joel Pollak reported, the Nation of Islam is led by Louis Farrakhan, “whose racist and antisemitic rhetoric has long been a matter of public record.”
8. Warnock Oversees Camp Suspected of Child Abuse
Warnock worked as senior pastor of Baltimore’s Douglas Memorial Community Church, which ran Camp Farthest Out, from about 2001 to 2005. The camp was suspected of child abuse in 2002, and according to a 2002 report by the Baltimore Sun, Warnock was arrested for interfering with a state trooper who was questioning the camp’s counselors on the matter.
Warnock has said his interference was due to making sure the counselors “had the benefit” of legal counsel.
Warnock himself has not been accused of child abuse and little detail is public regarding the allegations against the camp; however, one of the camp’s attendees, Anthony Washington, who was 12 years old at the time, recently detailed his experience at the camp to the Washington Free Beacon. Washington said he received a financial settlement after filing a lawsuit against the camp alleging child abuse, including an instance of counselors pouring urine on him and punishing him by forcing him to sleep outside.
Loeffler told Breitbart News she found the allegations “disgusting” and chastised Warnock for refusing to answer questions about the allegations.
9. Warnock Does Not Denounce Marxism, Describes Marxism as Useful
In their last debate, Loeffler asked Warnock whether he would denounce Marxism, and Warnock evaded the question. The momentous exchange was widely circulated online and has since been incorporated into Loeffler’s stump speeches as evidence of Warnock’s “radical” viewpoints.
The question stemmed in part from Warnock’s past writings, which reveal his interest in Marxism, a philosophy named for Communist Manifesto author Karl Marx that has been employed by oppressive governments such as those of China and the Soviet Union.
In his 2014 book, The Divided Mind of the Black Church: Theology, Piety, and Public Witness, Warnock espoused Marxism, saying it has “much to teach the black church.” Warnock cited more than 30 separate works by the aforementioned Cone in his book, including several works on Marxism.
Write to Ashley Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.