Warnock, also a reverend, notably praised Wright, a former pastor to Barack Obama, after his “God Damn America” sermon surfaced during the 2008 election cycle. Some Obama advisers worried at the time that the matter might sink his candidacy.
“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,” Wright had said.
Warnock was, in his own words, “dispatched” to defend Wright after a tape of the 2003 sermon emerged.
In a 2008 appearance on Fox News, Warnock was asked about that speech and other remarks. “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,” he said.
“And I think the country has been done a disservice by this constant playing over and over again of the same soundbites outside of context,” he said, before noting Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “America is the greatest purveyor of violence today.”
He then described Wright as a “preacher and a prophet.”
Wright previously blamed Jews in 2009 for keeping him from talking with Obama. He’s also made a number of other inflammatory remarks, including when he said after 9/11 that “America’s chickens are coming home to roost” and blamed “them Jews” for his inability to talk to Obama after he won the White House.
As recently as March of this year, when his defense of Wright was covered by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Warnock stood by his defense of Wright as well as his own past comments.
“I know Rev. Wright,” Warnock told MSNBC’s Willie Geist. “I’m not an anti-Semite. I’ve never defended anti-Semitic comments from anyone and Kelly Loeffler knows better,” he added, before accusing her of “division and distraction.”
“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,” Warnock said. “And preaching at its best points out those contradictions but then shows us the path forward.”
Warnock campaign spokesman, Terrence Clark, previously told Fox News that the candidate “deplores and disagrees with any kind of remark that is anti-Semitic or discriminates against anyone.”
He added that the candidate “doesn’t agree with all of the positions other pastors support, and has said such throughout this campaign.”
“Rev. Warnock loves this country, and he supports honoring the dignity of all people, but also finding common ground to reform our broken systems,” he said. “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.”
In another statement, Clark said Warnock respected Israel. “Reverend Warnock has deep respect for the invaluable relationship the United States has with Israel and how Georgia continues to benefit from that friendship,” he said, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
“The reservations he has expressed about settlement activity do not change his strong support for Israel and belief in its security — which is exactly why he opposes ending direct military aid to such a strong ally.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.