Raphael Warnock said 'racism is America's preexisting condition' in resurfaced 2017 sermon

Warnock’s past sermons have drawn close scrutiny ahead of Jan. 5 runoff vote

Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Raphael Warnock, whose past sermons have been a source of intense scrutiny in the state’s heated runoff campaign, said “racism is America’s preexisting condition” in a 2017 sermon that resurfaced on social media this week.

Warnock made the remarks during a sermon at a New Baptist Covenant event on June 29, 2017. In his address, entitled “The Almighty Care Act,” Warnock asserted that systemic racism was a “sickness” that was impacting political discourse.

“America is suffering from a deep, spiritual problem and what we are seeing is just symptomatic of our sickness. You ask yourself, how in the world did we end up here? Because this is bigger than the normal kinds of partisan debates that go on,” Warnock said at the time.

“We are in a special moment. We are in an evil moment. We are in a tragic moment, and I suggest to you that our politics is symptomatic of our sickness. We’ve got a lot of problems, but I would not be a prophet if I did not tell you that racism is America’s preexisting condition.

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“Like the insurance companies, nobody wants to go there. Nobody wants to cover it because we wonder what it would cost,” he added. “We, the land of the free, and the incarceration capital of the world. In this land where we warehouse 25% of the world’s prisoners although we are only 5% of the world, we are to ask ourselves what has it cost us not to cover it, not to face up to it, not to confront it, not to deal with it? Racism is America’s preexisting condition.”

Warnock’s 2017 sermon was delivered during an intense political debate over the future of the Affordable Care Act. The Trump administration and leading Republicans had pushed to repeal the health care policy, known as “ObamaCare.” However, the effort collapsed in July 2017 after the late Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, joined Democrats in voting against repeal.

“Reverend Warnock was speaking to the injustices that persist in Georgia and across America rooted in racism and systemic barriers to equity for all people,” Warnock campaign spokesman Terrence Clark said in a statement on the resurfaced video. “These injustices that Reverend Warnock has fought against his entire life are the same injustices he will take on in the U.S. Senate, unlike Senator Kelly Loeffler who celebrated the endorsement of a QAnon believer and even granted an interview to a pundit associated with white supremacy.” 

Warnock, 51, is a prominent civil rights activist and a senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. The reverend and his Republican challenger, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, proceeded to a runoff election after neither candidate earned at least 50 percent of the vote in the general election.

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Loeffler and Republican allies have sought to paint Warnock as a candidate who would support a radical agenda if elected to office. Warnock’s past sermons have drawn close scrutiny ahead of the Jan. 5 runoff vote.

Earlier this month, Loeffler demanded an apology from Warnock after resurfaced footage from a 2011 sermon showed that he said America could not “serve God and the military” at the same time. On Nov. 14, Loeffler shared an October 2016 clip from a sermon in which Warnock said "America needs to repent for its worship of whiteness” following President Trump’s election victory over Hillary Clinton.

Warnock and his representatives have argued the remarks from past sermons have been taken out of context and are an attempt to distract the public from critical issues raised by his campaign.

Warnock downplayed Loeffler’s attacks as “smear ads” in a new campaign ad on Tuesday.

“We told them the smear ads were coming and that’s exactly what happened,” Warnock says in the ad. “You would think Kelly Loeffler might have something good to say about herself if she really wants to represent Georgia. Instead, she’s tried to scare people by taking things I’ve said out of context from over 25 years of being a pastor. But I think Georgians will see their ads for what they are.”

This story has been updated.