Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff won praise from progressives on Wednesday night after launching a "blistering attack" on Sen. David Perdue over the Republican's handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Georgia and his lies about protecting constituents' healthcare.
During the candidates' debate, after the Georgia senator resorted to criticizing Ossoff for garnering out-of-state campaign donations—as many Democratic congressional challengers have this year amid the GOP's refusal to pass legislation to aid struggling families and small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic—Ossoff quickly responded by bringing up the federal investigations that were opened into Perdue's alleged insider trading after the coronavirus reached the U.S. in January.
"You shouldn't do everything that your handlers in Washington tell you to—because you'll lose your soul along the way." —Jon Ossoff, Senate candidate
Perdue was one of several senators who used information they gained in early briefings about Covid-19 to sell and buy stocks. He has acknowledged that after a Senate briefing on Jan. 24, he bought stocks several times in a company that produced personal protective equipment, which would soon be needed in hospitals across the country. Perdue also sold several stocks around the same time.
Meanwhile, Ossoff told debate viewers, Perdue has repeatedly downplayed the severity of the coronavirus.
"It's not just that you're a crook," Ossoff said. "It's that you're attacking the health of the people that you represent."
Sen. David Perdue doesn't deserve to be re-elected. pic.twitter.com/S7Zi3dsnik
— Jon Ossoff (@ossoff) October 29, 2020
"You did say Covid-19 was no deadlier than the flu, you did say there would be no uptick in cases," added Ossoff, a media executive who narrowly lost an election for a congressional seat in 2017. "All the while, you were looking after your own assets, and your own portfolio."
In May, on a call with local business owners, Perdue defended his state's reopening by comparing the risk of contracting Covid-19 to that of getting into a car accident and said, "We've had ordinary flu seasons with more deaths than we're seeing now in this one."
At the time, about 80,000 people had died of the disease in the U.S., and Georgia had reported 1,557 cases of Covid-19 in just four months—more than the number of car accidents in the state in all of 2018.
Recently, Perdue has offered effusive praise to President Donald Trump over his handling of the pandemic, as Trump has criss-crossed the country, claiming at rallies that the U.S. is "rounding the corner" even as the country sets single-day case records.
"You shouldn't do everything that your handlers in Washington tell you to—because you'll lose your soul along the way," Ossoff told Perdue during the debate.
Ossoff also attacked the senator for proposing the PROTECT Act, a Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, which includes loopholes that would allow for-profit insurance companies to deny coverage for people who have pre-existing health conditions.
"Under the bill, a person who has cancer technically could buy a plan and not be charged a higher premium due to the illness," Sarah Lueck, a policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), told The Daily Poster last week. "However, his or her benefits could run out because the insurer imposes an annual or lifetime limit, or the plan might not cover the prescription medicines that treat the cancer."
"You did vote four times to end protections for pre-existing conditions," Ossoff told Perdue Wednesday night. "Can you look down the camera and tell the people of this state why you voted four times to allow insurance companies to deny us health coverage, because we may suffer from diabetes, or heart disease, or asthma, or have cancer in remission?"
As of this writing, the video of Ossoff challenging Perdue has been viewed more than three million times on Twitter.
"When your own messaging bill to protect pre-existing conditions—The PROTECT Act—includes a loophole that makes it so they’re not actually protected, you might get ethered on a debate stage like this," tweeted journalist Ryan Grim.
When your own messaging bill to protect pre-existing conditions — The PROTECT act — includes a loophole that makes it so they’re not actually protected, you might get ethered on a debate stage like this. Fair warning. https://t.co/CIbtUMWgml
— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) October 29, 2020
A poll released by Monmouth University on Wednesday found that Ossoff is leading Perdue by three percentage points, putting them in a statistical tie. The University of Georgia's most recent survey, released Sunday, showed Ossoff one point ahead of Perdue.
"Sen. David Perdue doesn't deserve to be re-elected," tweeted Ossoff after the debate.