Despite his railing against “liberal media outlets” that are apparently unfair to him and other devoted followers of President Donald Trump, Georgia gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Michael Williams (R-Cumming) found the time to appear on CNN Saturday to discuss the future of Confederate monuments in the aftermath of white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville.
During his appearance, Williams challenged Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ call to remove the image of three Confederate leaders carved into Stone Mountain. Abrams has argued that the statues are symbols of domestic terrorism, racism, and bigotry. Williams had earlier released a statement suggesting that Abrams’ logic might lead to the destruction of the Jefferson Memorial or the Washington Monument since both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were slave owners. Williams said he does not support “defacing Stone Mountain or rewriting Georgia’s history.”
Williams’ interview was conducted by CNN’s Victor Blackwell, who pushed him to expand on his slippery slope argument regarding the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial. Williams’ response was uneven as he struggled to answer Blackwell’s questions asking him to identify similarities between the Founding Fathers and Confederate leaders beyond saying “they are history” or “they are all monuments.”
Williams said the Confederate monument controversy is an attempt to undermine the Trump presidency (a claim Blackwell easily rebutted by pointing out the issue’s salience well before Trump) and also defended his position by saying over half of black Americans don’t want the statues taken down (44 percent support the statues remaining, 40 percent want them removed, and 11 percent are unsure according to the poll Williams cited). Then Williams wondered out loud why people were talking about the issue at all, saying issues like education should take precedence. Keep in mind, he said this in the wake of a nationally traumatic week of violence and racial tension related to the removal of a Confederate statue.
Williams spent the rest of the interview defending Trump’s controversial response to the Charlottesville rallies that was sympathetic to white supremacists and his own photo-op with the right-wing militia Georgia Security Force III% at an anti-Sharia law rally earlier this summer. One of the militia’s former members who was photographed with Williams attended the Charlottesville rally on the side of the white supremacists. He allegedly participated in the beating of counter-protester DeAndre Harris. Williams said he didn’t the know the member accused of the assault and that he should be prosecuted for the crime if guilty. Blackwell then brought up a Facebook post that the militia made following Trump’s remarks on Tuesday (where he said that there were “fine people” among the white supremacists). The post contained a letter that Robert E. Lee sent in 1856 where he justified violence against black slaves. Williams avoided a direct condemnation of the Georgia Security Force III%, but he did say that racism has no place in Georgia.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Williams did not come off well in the interview. He didn’t seem prepared to defend his (and Trump’s) argument that taking down Confederate monuments would lead to the destruction of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. He also looked uneasy when discussing his association with the Georgia Security Force III%. Nevertheless, Williams shared the video on his Facebook page and appeared quite proud of yet another odd moment in a campaign that has, thus far, been replete with uneven performances, falsehoods, and straight-up kookiness.
Here’s a sampling:
- He claimed he was offered the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee if he withdrew from the race for governor. Williams is an inexperienced legislator and unlikely to be competitive in the Republican primary. This almost surely did not happen.
- He held a press conference at the state Capitol where he said he would reveal “reprehensible acts” committed by Lieutenant Gov. Casey Cagle, his opponent in the Republican primary. He did no such thing in a performance that was widely panned by those who attended.
- He appeared on CNN (he sure does like CNN despite them being #FakeNews) to talk about the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. Much like the Confederate monument interview, he did not appear prepared and his performance was criticized.
- He took a photo with the Georgia Security Force III%, a group that been described as Islamophobic, at a rally against Sharia Law.
- His campaign is associated with reality TV star Dog the Bounty Hunter and renegade Republican operative and former Trump adviser Roger Stone. Dog the Bounty Hunter is his campaign chairman. Stone headlined an Atlanta fundraiser with him and they appeared together on Alex Jones’ conspiracy theory-ripe InfoWars.
- He sent out an email where he linked current immigration policy (an enormously complex issue that isn’t going to be solved by a giant wall or “getting tough”) to a horrific rape, complete with a vivid description of the crime and mugshots of the alleged attackers, who Williams says are undocumented immigrants. The email’s subject line was, “Democrats must accept fault for rape.”
Out of the four declared Republican candidates for governor of Georgia, Williams has by far the lowest chance of winning the primary. If he somehow manages to win, he probably stands the greatest chance of losing the general election to a Democrat. His campaign has been a Trumpian circus so far and that has been probably (mostly) been by design. However, unlike Trump, Williams will have trouble connecting the dots of anti-establishment resentment due to his low name recognition and relative lack of funding and support from grassroots Republicans. Expect him to possibly be a thorn in the side of Republican-frontrunner Cagle, but don’t expect him to be in the governor’s mansion come January 2019.