By Greg Bluestein, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga
The Republican drew sharp criticism for her tweet.
In a race to the party’s conservative flank, U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler parroted one of President Donald Trump’s favorite talking points by blaming China for his coronavirus diagnosis.
“Remember: China gave this virus to our President @realDonaldTrump and First Lady @FLOTUS,” she said Friday on social media. “WE MUST HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE.”
The tweet came shortly before she delivered elements of her typical stump speech at a Faith and Freedom Coalition conference and later at a campaign stop at a Forsyth County restaurant.
Though she didn’t address the social media post in either speech, she was asked after what she meant when she blamed the Asian superpower for Trump’s disclosure that he had contracted COVID-19.
“China brought this virus to our country. They have to be held accountable. They made the WHO complicit in its spread around the world,” she said, referring to the World Health Organization.
“President Trump’s been saying this since day one: We have to hold China accountable for what they’ve done to our country. Stealing jobs. Spreading the virus. Spying on us. Stealing intellectual property. And I’m going to continue to fight to do that in the Senate.”
Trump and his allies have claimed the Chinese deliberately concealed what they knew about the coronavirus after it first spread from the city of Wuhan last year, and that the WHO has come under the influence of China. The WHO, an arm of the United Nations, and China have both denied those claims.
And in Tuesday’s chaotic debate, Trump deflected criticism over his handling of the pandemic by referring to the virus as the “China plague” that “should never have happened.” A Chinese foreign ministry aide said the accusations were “groundless and untenable.”
Loeffler and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins have spent the year trying to outduel each other for conservative votes in Georgia’s special election, a messy 21-candidate free-for-all. Her social media post brought sharp criticism from across the political spectrum.
“Did someone hack your twitter account and post this?” wrote Matthew Dowd, a veteran Republican strategist.
“Trying real hard to beat Doug Collins in getting those racist primary votes. This is gross pandering and you know it,” wrote Nabilah Islam, a former Georgia congressional candidate who runs a liberal advocacy group.
“To Chinese people in the State of a Georgia, be aware of this. And be careful. And shame on this travesty of a woman named,” wrote Ava Duvernay, a filmmaker with a broad social media following.