Republican senator uses People’s World in anti-communist smear attack
Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., right, has accused his Democratic challenger, Jon Ossoff, of being endorsed by the Communist Party, citing a 2017 People's World article as proof. The CPUSA says it doesn't endorse the candidates of other parties. | Photo: Alex Brandon / AP | Illustration: PW

The Republican Party’s anti-communist election crusade is still going strong, although it doesn’t appear to be winning over many voters. The latest target of the modern-day McCarthyite witch-hunt is Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff. His opponent, Trump loyalist Sen. David Perdue, has accused Ossoff of being backed by the Communist Party USA.

The evidence of Ossoff’s supposedly red credentials?

In April 2017, People’s World published an article about Ossoff’s run for Congress that was written by former PW staff writer Larry Rubin. The Facebook account of the Communist Party shared the article to its page at the time. For Perdue, that was apparently proof enough that Ossoff keeps company with radical leftists.

The article, headlined “Progressive may win Newt Gingrich’s seat, handing Trumpism a major defeat,” covered Ossoff’s lead in Georgia’s “jungle primary,” where Republicans and Democrats were all competing to win the 6th District seat vacated by Tom Price, who joined the Trump cabinet.

Ossoff made it to the run-off but barely lost in the final tally—winning 48.22% to Republican Karen Handel’s 51.78%. This time, Ossoff has Perdue running scared in his fight to hold onto his U.S. Senate seat. The latest poll shows Perdue at 49% and Ossoff at 46%, a difference that is well within the margin of error.

And that explains why Perdue is bringing out the old socialist boogeyman to smear Ossoff. Addressing an Oct. 2 meeting of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a group that bills itself as a bridge between Evangelicals and the Tea Party, Perdue made his indictment:

“It’s just outrageous what they”—Democrats—“want to do,” he said. “This is not just radical; this agenda is very dangerous. And as a matter of fact, my opponent is actually endorsed by the Communist Party in the U.S., if you can believe that.”

The article offered by the Perdue campaign as evidence of Ossoff’s red credentials is an April 2017 story by former PW staff writer Larry Rubin. The article was subsequently shared by the CPUSA on its Facebook page.

It was a repeat of the same accusation he’d made the day before during an interview with right-wing radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt. Perdue tried to play up Ossoff’s age (he’s 33), the alleged Communist connection, and the old “outside agitator” line long used by Southern conservatives as reasons for Georgians to reject his challenger.

“I’m running against a kid named Jon Ossoff, who has been endorsed by the Communist Party,” Perdue dismissively told Hewitt. He then blamed a supposed influx of imported voters from blue states like “California, Illinois, and New York” for the fortunes of his struggling campaign.

The fact of the matter is that neither the Communist Party, according to a party spokesperson, nor People’s World, for that matter, has endorsed Ossoff—either now or in any previous election.

Roberta Wood, a member of the National Board of the Communist Party USA, told the press in no uncertain terms, “The Communist Party did not endorse him.” She went further, saying that unless a candidate is a nominee of the CPUSA, then they don’t get an official nod from the Communists. “We do not endorse candidates of other parties.”

Perdue’s nonsense caught the attention of fact-checkers at The Washington Post. Dissecting his charge against Ossoff, Post writer Glenn Kessler asked, “Seriously, when does posting a news article on a Facebook page constitute an endorsement?”

He gave Perdue a rating of “four Pinocchios”—the maximum—on the newspaper’s fact-checking scale. Essentially, that means the claim is just a flat-out lie.

When approached about the matter, the Perdue campaign dug in its heels and turned out more inaccurate claims. A spokesperson accused the Communist Party of lying about its policy of not endorsing non-Communist candidates, pointing to the alleged endorsement of Joe Biden by the “president of the CPUSA.” The CPUSA has no such officer.

As it turns out, it was neither of the CPUSA’s two national co-chairs, Rossana Cambron or Joe Sims, that the Perdue campaign was referring to. Instead, it was Bob Avakian, the head of a Maoist sect called the “Revolutionary Communist Party,” which was offered to prove the CPUSA’s dishonesty.

There is no connection between Avakian’s group and the actual Communist Party.

Related:

Republicans’ rabid anti-communism is a sign of their political weakness

Unable to substantiate its accusations, Perdue’s campaign simply returned to the tactic of name-calling. With no evidence, it said Ossoff had “lurched even further to the left” and that he “unquestionably supports the…radical, socialist agenda.”

Like Trump and the Republican Party nationally, Perdue is getting desperate and is willing to resort to whatever trick he thinks might help him fend off insurgent anti-GOP sentiment. Back in 2014, Perdue slapped the “terrorist” label on his opponent, Michelle Nunn. This time, with Ossoff, it’s the “communist” smear.

Instead of damaging Ossoff, though, Perdue is exposing himself and the president he supports. Regularly referred to as “Trump’s favorite senator,” Perdue was the first Fortune 500 CEO ever to be elected to the U.S. Senate. He made his millions overseeing companies like Reebok and the discount retail chain Dollar General. He’s set himself up as one of the Senate’s top anti-immigrant voices and has been a central link between the Trump White House and Republican leaders in the Senate. He and the president are regular pals on the golf course.

Asked about Perdue’s attempted weaponization of People’s World, this publication’s editor-in-chief, John Wojcik, said, “One thing about these ‘red scare’ types—something that is almost universally true—is that whenever they throw around anti-communist charges, you can bet they themselves have never done anything positive for working people.”

He said, “It’s just another thing that Perdue and Trump have in common.”

 


CONTRIBUTOR

C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People's World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.

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