Witzke, Coons tussle over Ginsburg, BLM in Delaware Senate debate

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U.S. Sen. Chris Coons and challenger Lauren Witzke

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons took part in a voters forum against Republican challenger Lauren Witzke in an online debate hosted by Jewish Federation of Delaware and Hadassah. (Screenshot)

The fight over replacing Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a hot topic Tuesday evening for U.S. Sen. Chris Coons and his Republican challenger Lauren Witzke.

Witzke came into the debate hosted by the Jewish Federation of Delaware facing criticism for her comments on social media following Ginsburg’s death. One post on her campaign’s Twitter account showed young Black children celebrating with a reference to the death of Ginsburg.

Witzke said her campaign only took down the image after she says she received death threats. “My campaign posted a meme and I stand by it,” she said. Witzke expounded her thoughts on Gingsburg’s death in a separate post: “I will not praise the woman who spearheaded the total destruction of Western Civilization.”

She disagreed with Coons’ call to follow Ginsburg’s dying wish that she not be replaced until a new president is elected.

“It just goes to show that Ruth Bader Ginsburg completely misinterpreted the constitution, declaring that she wants to wait for Joe Biden to be in office,” she said. “That is not what was in the Constitution, that was her only job to interpret and protect the Constitution and they are absolutely neglecting it.”

Coons responded, saying the very reason Ginsburg should be honored is that she understood the constitution deeply.

“She recognizes the fragility of the Supreme Court and its legitimacy,” Coons said. “She knew that a partisan political exercise jamming through this nominee just days before the election would risk further dividing the Senate and our nation.”

Witzke said regardless of anybody’s feelings, it’s the Senate’s duty to confirm a nominee. “It is their Constitutional duty to nominate and confirm a Supreme Court justice,” she said. “We must fill that seat immediately.”

Coons applauded two Republican senators who have said they will wait to confirm a nominee until after the election to uphold the precedent that was set four years ago when the GOP did not vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee. He said he had dinner Monday night with another colleague in an effort to convince them to join that effort.

“I think through persuasion there may yet be a path to avoid what will otherwise be a very divisive confirmation fight just a few days before the election,” Coons said.

Witzke repeats accusations against BLM

Witzke also weighed in on the Black Lives Matter protests, claiming members of Congress have been unable to get things done to help small businesses because “Democrats are teaming with terrorist organizations like Black Lives Matter,” she said. “Dems are so focused on woke issues that they’ve lost touch.” It’s not the first time Witzke has called the group a terrorist organization.

She then tied support for Black Lives Matter to the BDS movement — which promotes boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli institutions and businesses to end what it calls international support for Israel’s abuses against Palestinians. Witzke directly questioned Coons about whether his support for Black Lives Matter means he supports BDS.

Coons responded by saying while he has sponsored legislation against the BDS movement, it’s a false question to equate Black Lives Matter to BDS.

“All of us are capable of supporting law-abiding activity, of denouncing the violence of rioting and looting, the violence of vigilantism, or the violence of unjustified police misconduct,” Coons said. “I’ve always stood for peaceful protest, and I’m someone who has tried to contribute a constructive and positive voice.”

QAnon called ‘harmless’

Witzke also was asked about her support for QAnon, the conspiracy theory that claims President Donald Trump is battling a deep state child sex trafficking ring run by high-profile Democrats and celebrities.

“It’s just a bunch of people who want pedophiles held accountable and from what I understand it’s absolutely harmless,” she said.

Coons disagreed, pointing to the FBI’s determination that QAnon is a dangerous group and a potential domestic terrorist organization.

“That isn’t just talking about holding accountable sex traffickers, but is suggesting, advocating that Trump is actually taking on a secret, global cabal of cannibalists and pedophiles,” he said. “It is an extreme theory that is without basis in reality or fact, and is exactly the sort of thing that folks who have previously supported it, or suggested it’s harmless like my opponent, should research and denounce.”

Earlier this week, Witzke retweeted a message from VDARE.com, which had posted a story about her primary win. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified VDARE as a hate website that “regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and anti-Semites,” while the Anti-Defamation League has written that “VDARE posts, promotes and archives the work of racists, anti-immigrant figures and anti-Semites.”

The Jewish Federation of Delaware and Hadassah Wilmington Chapter traditionally host the first candidates’ forum the week after the Delaware primary, but this year’s event was a little different. The forum moved online, which allowed more than 600 participants to hear from the candidates — way more than can fit inside the Siegel Jewish Community Center.

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