Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) refused to apologize for playing into President Donald Trump’s election conspiracies Tuesday night after being called out by a top Georgia elections official.
Their spokespeople used similar language: both condemned violence of “any kind” before doubling down on the President and his allies’ baseless criticism of their own state’s election administration.
“Like many officials, as someone who has been the subject of threats, of course Senator Loeffler condemns violence of any kind. How ridiculous to even suggest otherwise,” tweeted Stephen Lawson, Loeffler’s communications director.
Lawson, however, continued: “We also condemn inaction and lack of accountability in our election system process—and won’t apologize for calling it out. Senator Loeffler will continue fighting to ensure we have a fair, trusted, and accurate election because the future of our country is at stake.”
Perdue’s statement was similar.
“Senator Perdue condemns violence of any kind, against anybody. Period,” said Perdue spokesperson Casey Black.
Then: “We won’t apologize for addressing the obvious issues with the way our state conducts its elections. Georgians deserve accountability and improvements to that process — and we’re fighting to make sure the January 5th election is safe, secure, transparent and accurate.”
On Tuesday, election official Gabe Sterling ripped off his mask and unleashed a furious tirade at a press conference, calling out all those who let Trump’s conspiracy theories go unchecked and his followers threaten election workers with violence.
“Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions,” Sterling, a top-ranking official in the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, said, referring to Purdue and Loeffler. “This has to stop. We need you to step up. And if you’re going to take a position of leadership, show some.”
Neither senator’s statement comes close to criticizing the President, who has ham-fistedly been fabricating voter fraud allegations in every swing state he lost. Indeed, the last line of both statements actually played into Trump’s conspiracies, implying that there’s a reason the senators have to “fight” to make sure that the January runoff election is fair.
This is the gamble Perdue and Loeffler have taken. By sticking by Trump’s side and inviting him to come campaign in the state — even when it entails attacking their own election officials — they’ve made clear that they’re prioritizing his support, and that of his followers, over clarity about the Nov. 3 election.
Democrats are hoping that will ultimately come at a cost, if Trump’s claims that the election is rigged — and the senators’ willingness to play into them — drive disheartened Republicans to just opt out.
Trump has occasionally tried to walk that idea back, urging his followers to vote for the senators. But whether he has the discipline to keep his campaign stop this weekend from turning into a list of grievances about stolen elections is far from certain.