The pastor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s church urged Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson to disavow Donald Trump, launching one of the most aggressive attempts by Georgia Democrats to tie state GOP officeholders to their nominee’s divisive rhetoric.
In an open letter to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published Friday, the Rev. Raphael Warnock wrote that Trump “went over the cliff” when he suggested that Second Amendment supporters might stop Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump later said his words were taken out of context.
As pastor of the church of our martyred leader — whose mother was also gunned down while playing our church organ one June morning by an unstable man, I submit that this is no joke. It is dangerous rhetoric so far beyond the pale of conventional politics that the normal rules of party loyalty do not apply. Senator, you and others must choose nation over party, principle over politics. Like Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, you should dump Trump. Given your stature, perhaps others will follow suit.
You cannot embrace Dr. King’s inclusive vision of “the beloved community” while endorsing Trump’s hateful nation. You cannot remember Dr. King in January and dismember his legacy of love, justice and nonviolence in November. “There comes a time,” King said, “When silence is betrayal.” Senator, that time is now.
The reverend is no impartial observer. He flirted for months with a bid to challenge Isakson, was vetted by national Democrats and headlined Democratic Party fundraisers before deciding against a run. But as the leader of Ebenezer Baptist Church, the iconic Atlanta church where King was baptized and later pastored, his criticism holds symbolic resonance.
Isakson, who is seeking a third term in November, has endorsed Trump but repeatedly said his top focus is on getting re-elected to the U.S. Senate. In an interview on Thursday, Isakson said he stood by Trump and will make no apologies for his doings.
“Let’s draw the line right here: I’m going to apologize any time I do something stupid. I’m going to be responsible for my actions, but I’m not going to assume responsibility for anyone else’s,” he said. “What I say is what I say. I’m not an apologist for anybody, and if somebody’s offended somebody, they need to be the person apologizing, not me.”
He was then asked if he still stood by Trump.
“I made one speech about that subject, in Cleveland, to our delegation to support our party,” he said. “And I am supportive of our party and I’m a member of the party. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”
On Friday, Isakson was pressed by Doug Richards of WXIA on the “Second Amendment” remarks that Trump made in Wilmington, N.C., earlier this week:
Isakson: I would never have made that statement.
Richards: Could you elaborate on that?
Isakson: No. I think that’s a pretty definitive answer.