If Jon Ossoff could grade the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 novel coronavirus disease pandemic, he said he would fail it.
Ossoff, whose wife is a health care worker who recently tested positive for the disease, said the government has not done enough to contain the disease or any negative impacts it will ultimately have on the economy. He puts the blame for that on both President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga. Ossoff is the Democratic Party’s nominee challenging Perdue, who is up for re-election this year.
When asked how he would grade the COVID-19 response, he said “F.”
“I don’t think that’s hyperbole and I really want to ask everyone reading this article to reflect on whether this gross incompetence deserves to be rewarded with re-election — 160,000 Americans are dead,” Ossoff said.
Ossoff talked to the Daily Post this past week about several topics, including the federal government’s response to the pandemic, life on the campaign trail, federal unemployment benefits available to people who lost their job because of the pandemic and attack ads that have been run against him.
Throughout much of the interview, he laid heavy criticism upon Perdue, saying the senator and Trump “deserve to lose.”
Because of the pandemic, Ossoff has switched to a virtual format for campaigning by holding weekly virtual town hall forums where he answers voters questions. On Wednesday, he participated in a virtual forum moderated by state Rep. Sam Park, D-Lawrenceville.
“Our overriding concern is public health, so there are events we’d love to hold and doors we’d love to knock on, but we’re putting public health first and finding other ways to get our message out,” Ossoff said. “We’ve been holding frequent virtual town halls, taking live questions from folks across the state ...
“And I think one of the reasons we’ve been building so much support statewide is a relentless focus on lowering health care costs, cracking down on abuse by insurance and drug companies, investing in infrastructure and getting dark money out of politics is an agenda that resonates everywhere.”
Ossoff said he is “ready to debate David Perdue anytime, any place,” and has challenged the senator to participate in several debates around Georgia. To date, he said he as not heard back from Perdue.
“I offered five televised debates (and) the senator still refuses to debate me,” Ossoff said. “But looking at the state of the world and his record, I’m not surprised he doesn’t want to debate me because his record is one of self-dealing, denial and incompetence when it comes to this public health and economic crisis and wide-spread disease and mass unemployment. It’s not a record he wants to run on or defend so I’m not shocked that he’s refusing to debate me.”
It is expected that at least the Atlanta Press Club — which routinely hosts debates for major seats, such as U.S. Senate governor and congressional seats — will likely be working to have a debate between Ossoff and Perdue this fall. The Atlanta Press Club has not yet announced its fall debates schedule, however.
The Democratic Party’s nominee blamed Trump for the current COVID-19 situation in the United States and tied Perdue to the president when it comes to the pandemic.
“Trump and Perdue are treating this pubic health emergency like a political problem rather than a problem that requires strong leadership informed by medical expertise,” Ossoff said.
But Perdue’s campaign responded to Ossoff’s criticisms by arguing that the Democrat is making false claims and insisting the senator has worked to get assistance for the pandemic response. In late March, he also recorded a public service announcement encouraging Georgians to follow the advice of public health officials, including guidance on social distancing, staying home when sick and frequently washing hands.
Perdue and fellow Sen. Kelly Loeffler also shared U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on reducing the spread of COVID-19 in late February.
“Since the COVID-19 crisis began, Senator Perdue’s number one priority has been fighting for the people of Georgia,” the campaign said in a statement. “He’s secured over $41 billion in direct federal aid for Georgians, $6 billion of which has gone to frontline healthcare workers and championed the Paycheck Protection Program, which has saved over 1.5 million Georgia jobs.”
One of the topics being debated in the new stimulus package has been whether to continue $600 a week federal unemployment benefits that were established in an earlier stimulus package to help Americans who became unemployed because of the pandemic.
Democrats want to continue the benefit. Several Republicans have argued, however, that the benefit have encouraged people to not return to work and have said it should be discontinued.
“They should be extended,” Ossoff said. “Millions of Georgians have filed jobless claims in the last six months, families are facing eviction and financial ruin, through no fault of their own, because the response to this pandemic has been botched at the federal level.”
Ossoff also addressed accusations leveled against him in a series of “Hollywood Jon” ads that the National Republican Senatorial Committee has been running against him. The ads accused Ossoff of misrepresenting national security credentials he held and of supporting U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal proposal among other claims.
Ossoff denied the accusations.
“All of their attacks are lies,” he said. “They’re claiming that I stated I held a security clearance for longer than I did. I never made any such statements. They’re claiming that I support the Green New Deal. I do not. They’re claiming I support socialized medicine. I do not.
“They’re also going out of their way to attack the film industry, which is a huge generator of jobs and revenues for our state.”