For someone who claims to not have a single racist bone in her body, Senator Kelly Loeffler sure is good at doing very racist things like repeatedly disparaging the Black Lives Matter movement and now, posing with former leaders of the Ku Klux Klan.
During a campaign rally on Friday for her runoff election, Loeffler decided it would be a good idea to pose for a smiling selfie with Chester Doles, whom the Atlanta Journal-Constitution describes as “a longtime white supremacist who spent decades in the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazi National Alliance.” In 1993, Doles was sent to prison for beating up a Black man that Doles and another KKK member allegedly attacked, as the Baltimore Sun reported at the time, “because he was riding in a pickup truck with a white woman.” And while Doles has apparently “publicly renounced racism” in recent years, the Journal-Constitution also reported that Doles marched alongside the Hammerskins, a racist skinhead gang, at 2017’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. In 2019, Doles created a group called American Patriots USA to support Donald Trump that, as the Associated Press noted, is “deeply tied to the far-right militia movement.”
After taking the selfie, Doles posted it to VK (???), a popular Russian (???) social media site, where it caught the eye of the group Bend the Arc:
Loeffler’s excuse? She was, according to her campaign, completely and totally unaware that Doles was a former Klan leader. “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,” campaign spokesperson Stephen Lawson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
But this isn’t the first time Loeffler’s campaign has encountered Doles, who isn’t exactly an unknown quantity. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in September, Doles was kicked out of a joint rally Loeffler held with Marjorie Taylor Greene over his views. He was too racist for even Greene, an avowed racist! At that time, a Loeffler campaign spokesperson “said the senator was unaware of Doles or the controversy over his attendance.”
I will allow that might have been true at the time, though anyone who has been following Georgia political news—perhaps someone running for a Senate seat—would have likely been aware that Doles was a big fan of Greene and had a penchant for showing up at campaign events. At the very least, a savvy campaign would have put Doles on a list of people to absolutely not take selfies with.
But not Kelly Loeffler! As Michael Brewer, a spokesperson for Loeffler’s opponent Raphael Warnock put it, “There’s no acceptable explanation for it happening once, let alone a second time.”