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Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., right, talks to a reporter as he leaves the Capitol at the conclusion of the second day of the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. (AP) Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., right, talks to a reporter as he leaves the Capitol at the conclusion of the second day of the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. (AP)

Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., right, talks to a reporter as he leaves the Capitol at the conclusion of the second day of the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. (AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman April 13, 2021

GOP ad misstates Warnock’s position on Georgia boycotts and MLB’s shift on All-Star Game

If Your Time is short

  • An ad by the National Republican Senatorial Committee portrays Sen. Raphael Warnock as supporting Major League Baseball’s decision to pull the All-Star Game out of Georgia in response to the state’s new voting law.

  • The ad omits Warnock’s full statements about whether businesses should boycott the state. Warnock has walked a fine line, urging corporations to speak out against voting restrictions but not calling for boycotts of Georgia.

  • After MLB’s decision, Warnock said he hoped businesses, athletes and entertainers would protest the law not by leaving Georgia but by fighting voter suppression.

An ad by a national Republican group portrays Sen. Raphael Warnock as supporting Major League Baseball’s decision to pull the All-Star Game from Georgia in protest of the state’s new voting law. 

The National Republican Senatorial Committee’s digital ad begins with a clip of President Joe Biden praising professional athletes for speaking out against the law, which expands early voting but includes new restrictions on voting by mail. 

The ad focuses its attack on Warnock, a Democrat who won his Senate seat in a January runoff but faces re-election again in 2022.

It includes a partial clip of Warnock’s appearance on CNN’s "State of the Union" to discuss the voting law, a few days before MLB’s announcement. 

"Should boycotts be on the table?" CNN’s Dana Bash asked Warnock.

The ad uses only the beginning of Warnock’s response: "I think we all have to use our voices."

The ad, titled "Warnock’s All-Star Blunder With The MLB," features a business owner and a tourism official talking about the economic loss from the All-Star Game. 

"Tell Senator Warnock you oppose his Georgia boycott," the ad concludes.

Some major Georgia-based corporations have made statements against the voting restrictions in Georgia’s law (and some Republicans, in turn, have called for boycotts of those businesses). On April 12, film director Antoine Fuqua and actor Will Smith announced that they are moving upcoming production of the film "Emancipation," about a fugitive from slavery, out of Georgia in protest. 

But the ad’s reference to Warnock and "his Georgia boycott" misrepresents the senator’s stated position by suggesting he approves of the boycott. Warnock said April 2 that he hopes "businesses, athletes, and entertainers can protest this law not by leaving Georgia but by coming here and fighting voter suppression head on."

We watched Warnock’s full interview on CNN as well as other statements he made and found that Warnock did not call for any sort of boycott of Georgia.

What Warnock said on CNN about Georgia’s voting law

In the CNN interview, Warnock demurred on the question of a boycott. He gave a broad statement in favor of corporations standing up for voting rights, but also said he wants Georgia "open for business."

Here’s the fuller exchange between Bash and Warnock, in which the senator also called for passing federal voting-rights legislation:

Bash: "Georgia-based corporations like Coca-Cola and Delta are facing intense criticism for not doing more to publicly oppose this law. Organizations like the PGA, the MLB are also under pressure to move high-profile events, like the Masters and the All-Star Game, out of your state of Georgia. Does corporate America need to be more forceful in denouncing this law? Should boycotts be on the table?"

Warnock: "I think we all have to use our voices. And I have to tell you, as the pastor of Ebenezer Church, I have seen these corporations falling over themselves every year around the time of the King holiday celebrating Dr. King.

"And, yes, I think that the way to celebrate Dr. King is to stand up for what he represented, voting rights. And so we will see how all of that plays out. But I'm focused on what we can do in the United States Senate.

"We have a responsibility to make sure that we secure the franchise. And we — when we do that, we protect the democracy. And I think, also, we set the climate for business. We want to see people prosper, particularly who have been suffering for months under this pandemic. We need to pass this legislation, protect the right of the people to be heard in their own democracy, and to make sure that Georgia is open, open for business and open for voting." 

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Bash: "So, no boycotts?"

Warnock: "Listen, I'm not focused on that. I am focused on what I can do as a United States senator."

The NRSC said in a press release that Warnock gave his "implicit approval for the boycotts" by not answering the question directly.

We asked the group whether it could point to any other statements by Warnock in favor of a boycott and did not receive a response. 

Statements by Warnock before MLB’s decision

In other statements, Warnock called for corporations to speak out against the law, but didn’t go as far as calling for MLB or any other business to boycott Georgia.

On March 25, the day Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed the law, a reporter asked Warnock, "Should Georgians who oppose this be considering a boycott of Georgia businesses?"

Warnock replied: "We need Georgia businesses to stand up, in a moment like this. They, too, are citizens of this state, and I can tell you as someone who is the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. King served, that come Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, the corporate entities in this state will all be falling over themselves to honor Dr. King. If you want to honor Dr. King, stand up against voter suppression right now." 

It was in the next few days that the idea of the MLB moving the All-Star Game, and criticism of the law by corporations, started to pick up steam.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on March 26, Warnock again called on corporations to speak up.

"And I say to the corporations in Georgia that have been entirely too silent in this moment that this is what Dr. King meant when he said that there comes a time when silence is betrayal," he said. "All of us have got to use our voices, our vote, and I am going to use every fiber, every effort, everything within me to stand up for our democracy."

Warnock’s response to MLB’s decision

On April 2, after pressure from players prompted MLB to move the All-Star Game, Warnock called on businesses, athletes and entertainers not to leave the state.

"Businesses and organizations have great power in their voices and ability to push for change, and I respect the decision of the players to speak out against this unjust law. It is not the people of Georgia or the workers of Georgia who crafted this law, it is politicians seeking to retain power at the expense of Georgians’ voices. And today’s decision by MLB is the unfortunate consequence of these politicians’ actions," Warnock said in a press release. "It is my hope that businesses, athletes, and entertainers can protest this law not by leaving Georgia but by coming here and fighting voter suppression head on, and hand-in-hand with the community."

Warnock made a similar statement on Twitter.

Other leading Democrats in Georgia explicitly rejected a boycott, including voting rights activist Stacey Abrams and Georgia’s other senator, Democrat Jon Ossoff.

Our ruling

An online ad by the National Republican Senatorial Committee suggests that Warnock supports boycotts of Georgia to protest the state’s new voting law, and uses a clip from a CNN interview.

The ad ignores statements Warnock made in the interview and later, where he expressed his hope that businesses would speak out about the law, but continue doing business with Georgia. He did not call for any sort of boycott.

We rate this statement False.

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Our Sources

National Republican Senatorial Committee, Digital ad about Sen. Raphael Warnock, April 11, 2021

National Republican Senatorial Committee, Press release about digital ad about Sen. Raphael Warnock, April 12, 2021

National Republican Senatorial Committee, Warnock Backs Efforts to Kill Georgia Jobs, March 30, 2021

CNN, State of the Union transcript and video, March 28, 2021

Sen. Raphael Warnock press release, Following Historic Floor Speech, Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock Continues to Call for Voting Rights Protections, Federal Action, March 24, 2021

Sen. Raphael Warnock, Statement on MLB’s 2021 All-Star Game, April 2, 2021

Rev.com, Senator Raphael Warnock Press Conference on New Georgia Voting Law Transcript March 26, 2021

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Warnock, in first floor speech, champions federal voting laws to blunt GA’s proposed restrictions, March 17, 2021

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Coke, Delta oppose Georgia’s ‘unacceptable’ voting law, March 31, 2021

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Greg Bluestein, Tweet, April 2, 2021

NPR, Georgia Lawmaker Arrested As Governor Signs Law Overhauling Elections, March 26, 2021

ABC, Georgia lawmaker who knocked on governor's door during election bill signing won't be prosecuted, April 7, 2021

The Guardian, Will moving the All-Star Game cost Georgia $100m? Almost certainly not, April 7, 2021

Washington Post, How Biden’s support for the All-Star Game boycott divided Democrats in Georgia, April 8, 2021

Factba.se, Interview: Sage Steele Interviews Joe Biden for ESPN in Pittsburgh, March 31, 2021

Fox5 Atlanta, Sen. Warnock on arrest of state representative, voting reform, March 25, 2021

USA Today op-ed by Stacey Abrams, Corporate America must pick a side on voting rights, prevent a Georgia repeat, March 31, 2021

ESPN, MLBPA chief open to talk with MLB about moving All-Star Game out of Georgia following new voting laws, March 26, 2021

Email interview, Michael Brewer, Sen. Raphael Warnock spokesperson, April 12, 2021

Sen. Raphael Warnock, Tweet, March 26, 2021

Sen. Raphael Warnock, Tweet, March 31, 2021

Sen. Raphael Warnock, Tweet, April 2, 2021

Sen. Raphael Warnock, Tweet, April 7, 2021

NPR, 'Emancipation' Moving Production Out Of Georgia Due To New Voting Laws, April 12, 2021

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GOP ad misstates Warnock’s position on Georgia boycotts and MLB’s shift on All-Star Game

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