We can safely assume the answer will be no, but Kelly Loeffler won’t leave that to chance. Our friend Reagan Battalion dug up this nugget from 1995, when Fidel Castro paid a visit to the UN but could not wander more than 25 miles of Turtle Bay. The Cuban dictator paid a visit to Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, where Castro got a hero’s welcome, and then … well, the Miami Herald covered it at the time, and Fox News quoted it last night:
🚨BREAKING: Georgia Senate Democratic Candidate Raphael Warnock hosted a celebration for Communist Dictator and Mass Murderer Fidel Castro at his church in 1995 pic.twitter.com/hQM7QdUU5Z
— Reagan Battalion (@ReaganBattalion) November 11, 2020
Castro received a similarly warm reception at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where Warnock worked at the time. The Miami Herald reported at the time that Castro “blast[ed] the United States with the vigor that was missing from his speech to the United Nations earlier in the day and winding up the evening with a rousing rendition of the socialist hymn Internationale.”
In C-SPAN footage of the event, head pastor Calvin Butts appears to praise Castro, prompting chants of “Fidel! Fidel! Fidel!” from the audience. A translation of Castro’s speech revealed him wondering why he was welcomed at the church, and noting that he changed from his business suit into military fatigues as he prepared for the event. He also described the blockade as “crazy” and “obsolete.” What appears to be additional footage on YouTube pans to the audience cheering Castro.
The head pastor was Calvin Butts, and still is. Butts tells Fox News that they welcomed Castro as part of the church’s “tradition to welcome those who are visionary, who are revolutionary, and who seek the freedom of all of the people around the world.” Freedom under Castro is a rather elastic term, then and now. The cheering for Castro’s anti-American speech and singing of the Internationale speak pretty clearly for themselves.
But do they speak for Raphael Warnock, the man who will contend for one of Georgia’s two US Senate seats in the January 5 runoff? The Rev. Warnock worked at Abyssinian Baptist at the time of Fidel’s appearance, and apparently Warnock at the time felt that Castro fit into the church’s tradition too.
Loeffler wants Georgia voters to note it as well:
🚨 @ReverendWarnock celebrated Fidel Castro & welcomed him to his church. It’s another example of what we’ve been saying all along: He’s the most dangerous and radical candidate in America. https://t.co/rAFhqWq3jg #gapol #gasen
— Kelly Loeffler (@KLoeffler) November 10, 2020
Warnock’s campaign denied the candidate had anything to do with the Castro event:
Warnock’s campaign disputes the importance of his role at the church at the time, claiming that he was a junior member of the church staff that was not involved in the decision-making process.
“Twenty-five years ago, Reverend Warnock was a youth pastor and was not involved in any decisions at that time,” a spokesperson for the Warnock campaign said without confirming whether or not Warnock attended that particular event.
The campaign added that Warnock served as a youth pastor when the speech in question occurred and became an “assistant pastor” later in his tenure at the church.
That’s not a great answer to the allegation, however. Castro’s demonstration clearly didn’t repel Warnock at the time or later — in fact, he became even more involved at Abyssinian after Castro’s appearance. Clearly, Warnock at least felt comfortable with the radical nature of this church, if not outright supportive of it. There’s no record that Warnock criticized the invitation or Castro for his speech at it — and if there were any record of it, Warnock’s campaign would have had that in its response to this story.
Perhaps Warnock has a good story to tell about youthful flirtations with radicalism and Castroism, and how those experiences gave him the wisdom to put those aside. If so, Warnock had better start telling those stories, and fast, because voters around the country made it clear that they aren’t interested in progressive Democrats’ soft Castroism, not even in bluer states than Georgia.
Update: Speaking of youthful indiscretions …
Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, has for years been one of the most vocal defenders of [Jeremiah] Wright’s infamous 2003 “God Damn America” sermon, which compared U.S. leaders to al Qaeda and claimed HIV was invented by the government as a way to kill black people. …
Warnock has been one of Wright’s most consistent public supporters. In 2014, he praised Wright’s “God Damn America” sermon in a speech at the Auburn Avenue Research Library.
“You ought to go back and see if you can find and read, as I have, the entire sermon. It was a very fine sermon. And Jeremiah Wright was right when he said the attack on him was in a real sense an attack on the black church,” Warnock said. “The message of Jeremiah Wright was that public policy has consequences.”
In another speech in 2013, Warnock called Wright’s sermon “a very fine homily.” In his 2013 book, The Divided Mind of the Black Church, Warnock compared Wright’s insights to those of the biblical prophet Jeremiah.
In an editorial shared with Jewish Insider on Monday afternoon, titled “I Stand with Israel,” Warnock writes, “Without reservation, you can count on me to stand with the Jewish community and Israel in the U.S. Senate.” Warnock details his position on a number of issues, including his support for the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding, his rejection of conditioning financial aid to Israel and his hope that a two-state solution can be achieved.
Warnock’s 2018 sermon was delivered shortly after the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. “It’s been a tough week,” Warnock noted. “The administration opened up the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Standing there [were] the president’s family and a few mealy-mouthed evangelical preachers who are responsible for the mess that we found ourselves in, both there and here — misquoting and misinterpreting the Scripture, talking about peace.”
Warnock went on to compare the struggle for Palestinian rights with the Black Lives Matter movement. “Meanwhile, young Palestinian sisters and brothers, who are struggling for their very lives, struggling for water and struggling for their human dignity stood up in a non-violent protest, saying, ‘If we’re going to die, we’re going to die struggling.’ And yes, there may have been some folk who were violent, but we oughta know how that works out,” Warnock said. “We know what it’s like to stand up and have a peaceful demonstration and have the media focus on a few violent uprisings. But you have to look at those Palestinian sisters and brothers, who are struggling for their human dignity and they have a right to self-determination, they have a right to breathe free.”
“We need a two-state solution where all of God’s children can live together,” Warnock proclaimed in the 2018 video before proceeding to charge Israel with shooting innocent Palestinians. “We saw the government of Israel shoot down unarmed Palestinian sisters and brothers like birds of prey. And I don’t care who does it, it is wrong. It is wrong to shoot down God’s children like they don’t matter at all. And it’s no more antisemitic for me to say that than it is anti-white for me to say that Black lives matter. Palestinian lives matter.”
Res ipsa loquitur. One other thing seems clear, though; the oppo research strategy has calculated all along for a runoff. Loeffler and the GOP allowed Democrats to rally behind the most radical and damageable candidate in the race. Call it the Roy Moore strategy, if you will.
Update: I have corrected Warnock’s first name to “Raphael.”