Perdue's campaign deletes ad that enlarges Jewish opponent's nose, insists it was accident

Senate candidate Jon Ossoff and top Georgia Dems slam the ad as "anti-Semitic."

July 28, 2020, 9:45 PM

Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate challenging incumbent Sen. David Perdue this November, slammed the Georgia Republican after his campaign posted a Facebook fundraising ad where Ossoff's nose was slightly enlarged, an image the Jewish Senate hopeful called a "classic anti-Semitic trope."

The Perdue campaign called the facial distortion an "unintentional error" by the vendor, and stressed that the senator did not see the ad before it was posted.

"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. Obviously, this was accidental, but to ensure there is absolutely no confusion, we have immediately removed the image from Facebook," a Perdue campaign spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News.

"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 anti-Semitism and all forms of hate," the statement continued.

The now-deleted ad began running on June 22 and made between 3,000 and 4,000 impressions on Facebook before it was removed, according to a report from the Forward, which was the first publication to report on the ad.

In addition to the nose enlargement issue, Ossoff's campaign pointed to the text of the ad, which says Ossoff and Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer -- who is also Jewish -- are trying to "buy Georgia." Ossoff's team called that a "not-so-subtle allusion to centuries-old anti-Semitic attacks against the Jewish people."

Miryam Lipper, Ossoff's campaign manager, said, "Everyone in politics knows this was no technical error."

"Shady Facebook ads are where campaigns try to do their targeted dirty work. This is just old school anti-Semitism, trying to fly under the radar, disgraceful for a sitting Senator, and David Perdue got caught in the act," Lipper said in a written statement.

ABC News did not hear back from Ossoff's campaign after asking if the candidate accepts the possibility that the ad may have been an accident.

In a press conference Tuesday, Ossoff challenged Perdue to donate the money his campaign made from the ad to charitable organizations that promote unity.

"At a moment like this when we need healing and when we need unity, for my opponent to stoop to this kind of incredibly divisive inappropriate offensive tactic is really disturbing and it's unbecoming of a sitting U.S. senator," Ossoff told reporters.

"This was an ad that was seen by thousands of Georgians. It was a fundraising act. I call upon Sen. Perdue to take the money that he raised using this manipulated image of my faith and donate that money to groups that promote community healing, and community unity, and tolerance because after these last four years that's what we need here in this country," he continued.

Nikema Williams, Chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, echoed Ossoff sentiments saying the ad has" no place in our politics."

"Now more than ever, we have to combat the ugly hatred we've seen continue to rear its head in this country. Senator Perdue must immediately fire the campaign vendor who made this ad, apologize to Jon Ossoff, and take responsibility for injecting these kinds of hurtful stereotypes into this election," Williams said in a written statement.

Following the backlash, Perdue's campaign said it would start to use a new company for digital fundraising.

"In light of an unfortunate and inadvertent error involving one of our Facebook advertisements produced and placed by an outside vendor, our campaign will be making a change to a new digital fundraising company. Senator Perdue did not know about nor see the ad before it ran, and he is committed to ensuring future mistakes of this kind do not occur," Ben Fry, Perdue's campaign manager, said in a statement to ABC News.

When asked if the sitting Georgia senator would consider donating the money raised from the attack ad, the campaign had no further comment.

PHOTO: Senator David Perdue
Senator David Perdue
U.s. Senate Photographic Studio-/U.S. Senate Photographic Studio

Former Sen. Norm Coleman, chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition, defended Perdue, touting their long-standing relationship and calling him a "true friend" and "ally to the Jewish community."

"Sen. Perdue has stood with the Jewish community in both combatting anti-Semitism and his unwavering commitment to the security of the Jewish state of Israel. On a personal note, I know Senator David Perdue to be one of the most decent individuals I have known. He is what my grandmother would call a "mensch": a person of honor and high integrity. Any attempts to smear him with charges of anti-Semitism are simply false," Coleman said.

Democrats are eyeing the Ossoff-Perdue race as a potential pick-up opportunity as they try to flip control of Congress's upper chamber. On Thursday, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report moved the race from "lean R" -- meaning Perdue had the advantage -- to a "toss-up," giving even more weight to the notion that Georgia is a battleground on every level this cycle.

Ossoff, a media executive/investigative journalist, narrowly avoided a runoff election in June. He first rose to prominence when he narrowly lost to former Rep. Karen Handel, R-Ga., in the 2017 special election for Georgia's 6th Congressional District, which is still the most expensive House race ever.