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U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., speaks during a campaign rally on Nov. 13, 2020, in Cumming, Ga. (AP) U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., speaks during a campaign rally on Nov. 13, 2020, in Cumming, Ga. (AP)

U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., speaks during a campaign rally on Nov. 13, 2020, in Cumming, Ga. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher November 23, 2020

Ga. Sen. David Perdue’s claim that Jon Ossoff is a socialist is Pants on Fire

If Your Time is short

  • Perdue argues that Ossoff holds positions so liberal that he is a socialist.

  • Perdue is wrong about most of the positions that he says Ossoff holds.

  • Even if Perdue’s evidence were accurate, it doesn’t square with what socialism is.

In one of the two Georgia runoffs that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate, GOP incumbent David Perdue used the S word — socialism — to brand his opponent, Democrat Jon Ossoff.

Perdue’s attack came in an interview on a TV show hosted by Mike Huckabee, the Republican former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate. 

"Philosophically, where do you and (Ossoff) differ significantly? What’s the main difference between you?" Huckabee asked.

"Well, it’s very simple," Perdue replied. "He’s a socialist." 

Perdue has used the term repeatedly about Ossoff, although more often he refers to what he claims is the documentary filmmaker’s support of a socialist agenda. President Donald Trump labeled Joe Biden a socialist — a claim we rated False, but one that some believe helped Trump win Florida in the Nov. 3 election.

Much of the evidence Perdue cites about Ossoff’s policy positions is inaccurate. And even if what he cited were correct, it doesn’t amount to Ossoff being a socialist. 

What is socialism?

Socialism has support among a significant number of Americans, particularly those who see it as promoting equality and more social services. A September 2020 Hill-HarrisX poll found that slightly more Democratic voters view socialism more favorably than capitalism. 

Strictly speaking, however, the most narrow definition of socialism refers to "governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods."

Ossoff has not stated support for such government control. 

When Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, or Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., speak of socialism,  they are referring to expanding the social programs already available, along with potentially higher tax rates to pay for them. But Ossoff opposes Sanders’ Medicare for All and Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal.

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RELATED: PolitiFact fact-checks and articles about the Georgia runoffs

Perdue’s evidence

Perdue’s campaign said Ossoff’s "socialist agenda" includes support for defunding the police, "government-controlled health care," the Green New Deal and "no borders."

Leaving aside whether any of those positions amounts to socialism, Ossoff has said he opposes defunding the police; opposes Medicare for All and supports private insurance; opposes the Green New Deal; and opposes abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) while supporting "strong border security."

Perdue’s campaign also said Ossoff supports sanctuary cities, higher taxes and changing the makeup of the Senate to "favor Democrats."

None of those positions is socialism.

Ossoff has said, "I don't think it's the role of local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law," but has not stated support for sanctuary cities. He "supports lower taxes for all but the wealthiest Americans." Ossoff does support statehood for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, which are seen as more likely to elect Democratic senators.

Perdue’s campaign also said Ossoff is a socialist because of support from Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez and "California liberals." But Ossoff doesn’t support Sanders’ Medicare for All, under which a single, national health insurance program would cover everyone who lives in the United States; or Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, which is centered on climate change, but incorporates everything from racial justice to labor union policy.

"It’s somewhat difficult to classify Ossoff ideologically, as he has never held elective office and has a relatively brief history in the public spotlight," said Zachary Peskowitz, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta. "With that caveat in mind, his campaign statements and debate performances are consistent with a middle-of-the-road Democrat."

Jeffrey Lazarus, a political science professor at Georgia State University, also described Ossoff as mainstream.

"Forget for a moment the massive levels of misunderstanding that pervade discourse around the word socialism. Looking just at Ossoff’s policy positions, they’re pretty mainstream Democratic policy positions," Lazarus said. "As far as I can tell, Ossoff isn’t calling for any policy that is particularly left-wing."

Our ruling

Perdue said Ossoff is a socialist. As evidence, Purdue said Ossoff supports policies that Ossoff actually does not support, such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Those policies don’t constitute socialism. Ossoff is not a socialist.

Perdue’s statement is false and ridiculous. We rate it Pants on Fire.

This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here, for more.

Our Sources

YouTube, David Perdue interview (5:00), posted Nov. 16, 2020

Email, John Burke, communications director for David Perdue’s campaign, Nov. 20, 2020

Email, Miryam Lipper, communications director for Jon Ossoff’s campaign, Nov. 21, 2020

PolitiFact, "Trump’s false claim that Biden is a socialist," Oct. 15, 2020

PolitiFact, "Rick Perry says Barack Obama is a socialist," Jan. 8, 2012

Twitter, Axios tweet, Nov. 9, 2020

Email, Emory University political scientist Zachary Peskowitz, Nov. 23, 2020

Email, Jeffrey Lazarus, political science professor at Georgia State University, Nov. 23, 2020

Jon Ossoff campaign website, "Policy," accessed Nov. 22, 2020

Washington Free Beacon, "Ossoff: Local Law Enforcement Should Not Enforce Federal Immigration Law," June 5, 2020

Atlanta magazine, "11 questions for Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff," Oct. 23, 2020

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "The Jolt: Regardless of who ‘won’ the debate, ‘the loser was American democracy,’" Sept. 30, 2020

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Shifting to offensive, Perdue’s ad claims Ossoff ‘speaks hate,’" Sept. 23, 2020

PolitiFact, "A vote for any Democrat is not a vote for socialism, open borders and tax increases," Oct. 24, 2018

PolitiFact, "Trump’s false claim that Biden is a socialist," Oct. 15, 2020

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Ga. Sen. David Perdue’s claim that Jon Ossoff is a socialist is Pants on Fire

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