According to the Jewish news site the Forward, which first reported on the ad, the black-and-white photo of Ossoff was “changed by having his nose lengthened and widened, even as other parts of his face stayed the same size and proportions.”
The ad — which declared that “Democrats are trying to buy Georgia!” — featured Ossoff and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), both of whom are Jewish. According to the Forward, the ad had been running on Facebook since July 22 and had made a total of 3,000 to 4,000 impressions before it was removed by Perdue’s campaign.
Ossoff denounced the ad in a tweet in which he shared the Forward article.
“Sitting U.S. Senator David Perdue’s digital attack ad distorted my face to enlarge and extend my nose,” Ossoff said. “I’m Jewish. This is the oldest, most obvious, least original anti-Semitic trope in history. Senator, literally no one believes your excuses.”
Ossoff later issued a statement in which he added that Perdue “can start with an unqualified apology to Georgia’s Jewish community.”
Ossoff is running against Perdue in one of a handful of competitive races around the country that Democrats hope to win in their effort to take control of the Senate. Cook Political Report rates the contest a toss-up.
Perdue’s campaign said Monday that it had deleted the ad to ensure that there was “no confusion” about the senator’s intentions. John Burke, a Perdue campaign spokesman, noted that the senator himself had not seen the ad.
“In the graphic design process handled by an outside vendor, the photo was resized and a filter was applied, which appears to have caused an unintentional error that distorted the image,” Burke said in a statement. “Obviously, this was accidental, but to ensure there is absolutely no confusion, we have immediately removed the image from Facebook.”
Burke pointed to Perdue’s record on combating racial and religious discrimination during his more than five years in the Senate, including his co-sponsoring of a resolution last year condemning all forms of anti-Semitism. Perdue also signed a letter in 2017 along with all other 99 sitting senators urging top law enforcement officials in the Trump administration to do more in response to the rise in threatening messages against Jewish schools and institutions.
“Anybody who implies that this was anything other than an inadvertent error is intentionally misrepresenting Senator Perdue’s strong and consistent record of standing firmly against antisemitism and all forms of hate,” Burke said.
The Georgia Democratic Party sharply criticized Perdue and called on him to apologize to Ossoff and immediately fire the vendor who produced the ad.
“This anti-Semitic attack against Jon Ossoff from Senator Perdue’s flailing campaign has no place in our politics,” state party chairwoman Nikema Williams said in a statement. “Now more than ever, we have to combat the ugly hatred we’ve seen continue to rear its head in this country.”
Perdue’s campaign declined to say whether it is considering cutting ties with the vendor after the incident.
The Jewish Democratic Women’s Salon, an Atlanta-based grass-roots group, also condemned the ad.
“The world knows and recognizes an anti-Semitic trope when they see one. . . . During a time of great political divisiveness, Senator Perdue should be working to bring members of our community together, not further contributing to the pandemic of hate that is currently plaguing our country,” the group said in a statement.
The Republican Jewish Coalition, meanwhile, defended Perdue as “a true friend to the Jewish community” who has “stood firmly against anti-Semitic bigotry.”
“Senator Perdue has made it clear that he strongly supports the right of all people to live free of anti-Semitism and hate in all forms,” former senator Norm Coleman, the RJC’s national chairman, said in a statement. He added: “Any attempts to smear him with charges of anti-Semitism are simply false.”