Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., refused to acknowledge President Donald Trump's election loss and backed his attempt to overturn the result of the election during Sunday's lone Georgia Senate debate.
Some Georgia Republicans worry that Trump's baseless allegations about the election could cost them in the two upcoming Senate runoffs in the state, which will determine what party controls the Senate. Even though Georgia's Republican governor and top election officials have forcefully pushed back on Trump and his allies' false claims amid death threats, Loeffler repeatedly refused to acknowledge that Trump had lost the election. Instead, the unelected senator said she supported Trump's legal efforts aiming to overturn the will of the voters.
"It's vitally important that Georgians trust our elections process and the president has every right to every legal recourse," Loeffler said. "And that's what's taking place."
Without citing any evidence, Loeffler claimed that there were irregularities in the state's election. In fact, there has been no evidence of widespread irregularities in the state.
Rev. Raphael Warnock, Loeffler's Democratic challenger, criticized the Republican for "casting doubt" on a legitimate election to placate the president's supporters.
"The people have spoken on the presidential election, and they're waiting on their senator to be focused on them — not the person in the White House," he said.
Loeffler's comments came after the state's top election officials repeatedly rejected Trump and his supporters' claims aimed at reversing the results of the race.
"The president's statements are false. They're misinformation," Gabriel Sterling, the state's voting system manager, told NBC News. "They're stoking anger and fear among his supporters."
"We've never found systemic fraud — not enough to overturn the election," Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, told ABC News.
"The mountains of misinformation are not helping the process," Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a fellow Republican, said in a statement. "They are only hurting it."
Loeffler was widely criticized for her "robotic" performance at the debate, where she appeared to recite prepared lines throughout the night. She referred to "radical liberal Raphael Warnock" at least a dozen times and accused him of being a socialist, which he is not, and seeking to take away people's guns, which he is also not.
Warnock, the senior pastor at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, took issue with Loeffler trying to use his sermons to attack him. She "lied not only on me, but on Jesus," he said.
"It's clear to me that my opponent is going to work really hard spending millions of dollars of her own money trying to push a narrative about me, because she's clearly decided that she does not have a case to be made for why she should stay in that seat," he added.
Loeffler also dodged questions about whether members of Congress should be banned from trading stocks after she and fellow Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., came under scrutiny for selling millions of dollars in stock after Congress began to receive private coronavirus briefings in the early days of the pandemic.
"What's at stake here in this election is the American dream. That's what's under attack," Loeffler said. "When they attacked me for a lie, a left-wing media lie, conspired with the Democrats by — this is an attack on every single Georgian who gets up every day to work hard to provide a better life for their family, who wants to live the American dream."
The Department of Justice and the Senate Ethics Committee dropped their investigations into the stock trades earlier this year.
"I've been completely exonerated," Loeffler claimed. "Those are lies perpetrated by the left-wing media and Democrats to distract from their radical agenda."
Warnock accused Loeffler of prioritizing self-interest over her constituents.
"Kelly Loeffler's out of touch," he said. "She's thinking about people who are like her. And I'm OK with the fact that she wants to make money — I just think you shouldn't use the people's seat to enrich yourself. You ought to use the people's seat to represent the people."
"She used her enormous privilege and power as a United States senator to pick a fight with the Black women on her team," he said. "She says she is against racism, and that racism has no place. But she welcomed the support of a QAnon conspiracy theorist, and she sat down with a white supremacist for an interview," he added in an apparent reference to Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and One American News Network host Jack Posobiec.
"That's incredibly sad — these comments that he's made, Loeffler replied. "There's not a racist bone in my body."
The Atlanta Press Club also hosted a second debate, though only one of the candidates showed up.
Democrat Jon Ossoff faced off against an empty lectern after Perdue refused to participate in any debates following a viral exchange in which the Democrat assailed the Republican as a "crook" over his stock transactions.
Ossoff blasted Perdue as a "coward" for skipping the debate.
"It shows an astonishing arrogance and sense of entitlement for Georgia's senior U.S. senator to believe he shouldn't have to debate at a moment like this in our history," he said.
Ossoff alleged that Perdue had declined to debate, because he didn't want to "incriminate himself" over the stock sales that the Democrat described as a "cartoonish abuse of power."
The moderator noted that investigations have not found any illegality on Perdue's part.
"His blatant abuse of his power and privilege to enrich himself is disgraceful," Ossoff replied. "He can't defend the indefensible . . . The standard for our elected officials must be higher than merely evading prosecution."
"I showed up to debate tonight," Ossoff tweeted after the event. "David Perdue pleaded the fifth."