In a page seemingly taken right out of Donald Trump‘s white supremacist campaign playbook, a photo showing Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler smiling alongside a former Ku Klux Klan leader with a brutally racist history has gone viral this weekend. Chester Doles apparently posted the photo on his Facebook after the two of them posed while smiling at an event on Friday.
A pro-Jewish organization first brought attention to the photo. The group described Doles in part as someone who “nearly beat a Black man to death.”
The photo surfaced nearly three weeks before the incumbent Loeffler is scheduled to square off against the Rev. Raphael Warnock in a run-off election for her U.S. Senate seat. Warnock is African American.
Doles notably pleaded guilty to a hate crime in 1993 for brutally beating a Black man in Maryland because he was riding in a vehicle with a white woman. The Baltimore Sun reported at the time that “Doles’ agreement to testify in the beating case angered fellow Klansmen, including Robert Tweed, who calls himself the imperial wizard for the Territorial Klans of America.”
Loeffler’s campaign on Sunday issued a statement scrambling to distance itself from Doles.
“Kelly had no idea who that was, and if she had she would have kicked him out immediately because we condemn in the most vociferous terms everything that he stands for,” a spokesman for Loeffler’s campaign told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The photo may have confirmed lingering suspicions that Loeffler is a white supremacist.
She’s been publicly dog-whistling up a storm for months now, including referring to the Black Lives Matter movement as “fascists.” She even pulled out the “racist bone” card during a debate.
Most recently, Loeffler aired a TV ad falsely claiming: “Raphael Warnock called police thugs and gangsters. Hosted a rally for communist dictator Fidel Castro. And praised Marxism in speeches and writings.”
Her objective is clear: to stoke the flames of racism that are simmering in a state with a rich anti-Black history in an attempt to appeal to more voters at any cost.
The photo with Doles, whether she intended for it to be made public or not, will likely endear her to voters looking for any reason to vote against a Black candidate, despite her quiet disavowal of it.
This is America.