Ossoff claims Perdue remark during Columbus campaign event mocks ‘social distancing;’ Perdue’s camp says it was about rally size

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Three days from Tuesday’s General Election, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff has criticized Republican Sen. David Perdue for remarks made Friday in Columbus.

Ossoff says the senator was mocking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social distancing guidelines during a Columbus rally. A spokesman for Perdue says that’s not the case. Polls have the two men locked in a tight race.

“I think Jon Ossoff may have been in town last night,” Perdue said Friday morning during a campaign stop at the Muscogee County Republican headquarters. “There’s some meeting over there where they’re about 25 feet apart and there might be 10 people there. You saw what happened in Warm Springs, right? There are more people here, by the way, than came to see Biden in Warm Springs.”

In the final week of the campaign, Ossoff has been attacking Perdue for his response to the COVID crisis. He continued that in a news release Saturday afternoon.

“Sen. Perdue has never taken this virus seriously,” Ossoff said in a statement. “He lied to us and claimed COVID-19 was no deadlier than the ordinary flu. Now, as hospitalizations climb in Georgia and more than 1,000 Americans lose their lives each day, Senator Perdue mocks CDC health guidelines. When you go to the polls Tuesday, remember: Sen. David Perdue doesn’t care about your family’s health and he never has.”

Perdue campaign Communications Director John Burke tells News 3 that the senator was not mocking social distancing in the quote at the Columbus rally.

“He was clearly highlighting the poor attendance at Joe Biden and Jon Ossoff’s campaign events, both of whom spent months hiding from voters while Senator Perdue was in Washington, working to secure billions of dollars in COVID-19 relief for Georgia while also visiting communities across the state,” Burke said.

Biden held a socially distanced stop in Georgia on Tuesday outside the Mountain Top Inn in Harris County. Attendance was restricted to a small group.

Trump campaigned in Georgia two weeks ago, drawing thousands to an event at the Macon airport. Another Trump rally is scheduled for Sunday in Rome. Perdue pulled out of the final scheduled debate with Ossoff on Sunday to attend the Rome rally.

“From the outset of COVID-19, Senator Perdue has urged all Georgians to watch their distance, wear a mask, and wash their hands,” Burke said. “He has consistently stressed the importance of this for all of his campaign events, anyone claiming otherwise is distorting the facts.”

During a debate Wednesday night in Savannah, Ossoff attacked the senator for his handing of the COVID crisis.

Ossoff and Perdue both held rallies in Columbus 13 hours apart. Ossoff participated in a Muscogee County Democratic Party gathering Thursday night in the Civic Center parking lot. It drew more than 100 cars. In addition to Ossoff, Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock also spoke at the rally that drew a couple of hundred people.

Masks were required at that event.

Perdue drew about 65 people for an 8 a.m. rally at the Republican headquarters off Veterans Parkway. That event did not require masks or social distancing.

Perdue’s Columbus remark came hours before it was announced that Republican U.S. Congressman Drew Ferguson had contracted COVID. Ferguson has been on the campaign trail in Georgia working for President Donald Trump and Congressman Doug Collins in the other Georgia U.S. Senate race.

Gov. Brian Kemp and his wife, Marty, went into quarantine after it was learned Ferguson had the virus. Kemp and Ferguson organized a counter-rally to the Biden event on Tuesday. It drew about 350 Trump supporters in Manchester.

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