In the last week, both Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel have found that, when you’re in the middle of a nationalized campaign for Congress, you can find yourself at the mercy of every loose cannon from your party’s side of the ledger.
This week, Ossoff was handed the bill for a two-month-old Twitter endorsement by comedian Kathy Griffin.
Griffin provoked a firestorm for photos that showed her holding up a bloody head resembling President Donald Trump. The Georgia Gun Owners quickly posted a web video describing her as one of the “Hollywood liberals” backing the Democrat’s campaign.
A day later, the Congressional Leadership Fund – the super PAC with ties to House Speaker Paul Ryan – entered the fray. It released an ad labeling Griffin an “Ossoff supporter” amid footage of that disastrous photo shoot. It’s part of the group’s $6.5 million campaign to thwart Ossoff.
“Now a celebrity Jon Ossoff supporter is making jokes about beheading the President of the United States,” the narrator says. “It’s not funny. These angry liberals will go to any extreme to elect Jon Ossoff.”
Griffin, for her part, has apologized and posted a video saying she “went too far.” CNN cut her from her most prominent role – as co-host of the network’s annual New Year’s Eve bash. And aside from her tweet, there seems to be no connection between Ossoff and Griffin. Federal records show she hasn’t donated to his campaign either.
Ossoff’s campaign reacted with outrage.
“Jon Ossoff believes what Kathy Griffin did was despicable and for Karen Handel’s super PAC to say otherwise is a disgrace,” said Ossoff spokeswoman Sacha Haworth. “Karen Handel should immediately demand this ad be pulled before any more children have to see these disturbing images on TV.”
Both campaigns are seeking any edge they can in the June 20 runoff for the 6th District, which spans from east Cobb to north Fulton. Republicans see the race as a must-win and hope to avoid an embarrassing setback. Upset-minded Democrats hope a victory in the district can give them a path to flipping the U.S. House next year.
In Handel’s case, the loose cannon was not a comedian – it was a controversial congressman-elect directly raising money for House Republicans.
When Greg Gianforte, the ‘body-slamming’ future Montana congressman, sent a fundraising plea last week to defeat “liberals in Georgia,” the Democratic Party of Georgia sent a dispatch wondering if Handel condoned violence against reporters.
“Georgia Democrats demand that Karen Handel condemn Gianforte’s violent behavior,” wrote party spokesman Michael Smith, “and return every single dime raised by his email.”
Watch the CLF ad here: