Election 2020

Raphael Warnock Was Assistant Pastor at Church That Hosted Fidel Castro in 1991

John Roark/Athens Banner-Herald via AP, File

Raphael Warnock, the Democrat challenging Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) in the U.S. Senate special election that is going to a runoff, served as an assistant pastor at a church that hosted and celebrated the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in 1995, Fox News’ Sam Dorman reported. Warnock’s campaign insisted the candidate was not a decision-maker at the church when Castro spoke there.

C-SPAN footage of Castro’s speech at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem shows an exuberant crowd chanting “Fidel! Fidel! Fidel!” as Calvin Butts — still the church’s senior pastor — praises the dictator. Sister Rosemari Mealy, who belonged to the National Alliance of Third World Journalists, also prompted applause at the event when she introduced the “great, most honorable commandante, el jefe Fidel Castro.”

Castro spoke at the church after the U.S. allowed the Cuban dictator to speak at the United Nations in New York City, where he condemned the U.S.’s embargo on Cuba. Castro could legally remain in the U.S. so long as he stayed within a 25-mile radius of the U.N.

Dorman connected Warnock to the event by linking Warnock’s church bio with news reports from 1995. Warnock currently serves as senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, a church he has led since 2005. According to a bio on Ebenezer Baptist Church’s website, Warnock served for 10 years at Abyssinia. A New York Times article in 1997 mentioned him in connection with Abyssinia.

At the time, The Miami Herald reported 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.”

Warnock’s campaign did not deny the connection. Rather, a spokesman insisted that the reverend did not have decision rights at the church.

“Twenty-five years ago, Reverend Warnock was a youth pastor and was not involved in any decisions at that time,” Terrence Clark, a spokesperson for the campaign, told Fox News. The campaign did not comment on whether or not Warnock attended the event in question.

Loeffler’s campaign tied Warnock’s connection to the Castro speech with the Democrat’s left-wing activism. “Raphael Warnock celebrating Fidel Castro and welcoming him to his church is just the latest example in a long line of his radical, far-left, socialist positions,” Stephen Lawson, a spokesman for Loeffler’s campaign, told Fox News.

“Georgians need someone like Kelly Loeffler who has a record of results creating jobs and opportunities for hardworking families – not a radical socialist who cozies up to brutal dictators,” Lawson concluded.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who describes himself as a Democratic socialist, endorsed Warnock, but the reverend has stopped short of endorsing Sanders-style policies. Warnock does not support “Medicare-for-All,” instead backing an expansion of Obamacare in a position closer to that of Joe Biden. Warnock also stops short of endorsing the Green New Deal, but he has called for rejoining the Paris Climate Accords and for transitioning “to a clean economy by 2050.”

Warnock, like Biden, dresses up his support for radical change in a “moderate” garb.

While the results of the 2020 elections remain inconclusive, Republicans picked up seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and seem to be on track to preserve their majority in the U.S. Senate. Moderate Democrats have warned that the party’s leftward lurch toward socialism in the form of Medicare for All and the Green New Deal is marginalizing the party, costing Democrats seats they should be able to win. Radical leaders like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have argued that the more open socialist candidates won their races in safe seats.

Georgians will vote in two runoff elections on January 5, in races that will almost certainly determine which party controls the majority of the U.S. Senate for the next two years. Democrats have alienated voters with radical policies like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, but they have also taken extreme stances in support of packing the U.S. Supreme Court and potentially adding states to the U.S., fundamentally shifting elections in the Democratic direction.

Warnock and Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate who is facing Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), will have to navigate their party’s extreme policies in a traditionally red state.

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Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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