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Georgia Senator Is Criticized for Ad Enlarging Jewish Opponent Jon Ossoff's Nose

2020-07-28 03:39:47
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ATLANTA — Senator David Perdue of Georgia’s re-election campaign was assailed on Monday for a Facebook advertisement that enlarged the nose of his Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff, who is Jewish, in a portrayal that critics immediately denounced as anti-Semitic.

The Republican senator’s fund-raising ad, which surfaced after The Forward published an article about it on Monday, included grainy photographs of Mr. Ossoff and the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, who is also Jewish. “Democrats are trying to buy Georgia!” the ad said, adding that Mr. Schumer had poured millions of dollars into the race.

Mr. Perdue’s campaign said on Monday that the ad had been taken down and that the alteration had been an outside vendor’s error.

But critics said that it reflected something more insidious, arguing that the campaign had employed imagery long used to malign Jews at a time when a rising tide of anti-Semitism in the country has seeped into politics. In a post on Twitter, the political advocacy arm of Bend the Arc, a progressive Jewish organization, called it blatant: “It’s not an accident.”

Mr. Ossoff urged Mr. Perdue to apologize to the Jewish community.

“This is the oldest, most obvious, least original anti-Semitic trope in history,” Mr. Ossoff said in a statement on Monday night. “Senator, literally no one believes your excuses.”

In response, Mr. Perdue’s campaign contended that the senator had a demonstrated legislative history of opposing religious and racial discrimination. “Obviously, this was accidental,” the campaign said in a statement, describing it as an “unintentional error” caused by resizing and filtering the original image, a 2017 photograph from Reuters.

“Anybody who implies that this was anything other than an inadvertent error,” the campaign said, “is intentionally misrepresenting Senator Perdue’s strong and consistent record of standing firmly against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate.”

The Forward, in its article, cited graphic design experts who found that the size of Mr. Ossoff’s nose was exaggerated in comparison with the original image. The experts found that his nose appeared wider and longer, while no other facial features had been noticeably altered.

The ad was posted on July 22, according to data maintained by Facebook. It registered at least 3,000 impressions, which refers to the number of times that it appeared on users’ screens.

For centuries, depictions of Jews that embellish their noses as large and hooked have been used as a form of anti-Semitic caricature. The ad in Georgia also came as researchers have found that anti-Semitism has surged across the country in recent years, manifesting itself through violence and vandalism as well as in more subtle ways.

The Anti-Defamation League released an annual audit in May showing that anti-Semitic incidents had climbed to record levels, with more recorded in 2019 than in any year during the four decades the organization has been tracking them.

Mr. Perdue, a longtime business executive who has been Georgia’s senior senator since 2015, has found himself in an increasingly competitive re-election fight against Mr. Ossoff, with some polls showing the race as a tossup.

Mr. Perdue has sought to highlight his ties to the Trump administration and his efforts to bolster the business climate in Georgia.

Mr. Ossoff vaulted to political prominence in 2017 after a vigorous but unsuccessful run for a House seat in the Atlanta suburbs. The campaign, running in a special election, tapped into hostility toward President Trump, particularly among educated suburban women, and shattered fund-raising records as it drew support from beyond Georgia.

Mr. Ossoff has relied on those same themes to gain traction in his Senate bid. He also received an endorsement heading into the primaries from Representative John Lewis, the Georgia congressman and civil rights leader, who died on July 17.


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