ATLANTA -- Senator Johnny Isakson condemned Donald Trump’s remarks about groping women during a contentious debate recorded Friday. He also reiterated his intention to vote for the Republican nominee.
What had been a sleepy US senate race woke up with a jolt for one day. Isakson, the incumbent, predictably took most of the fire—ranging from his support for Trump to his age and health.
The Atlanta Press Club debate was the only one Johnny Isakson would agree to do. The veteran Republican senator is the favorite to win a third term.
But Democrat Jim Barksdale was there to overturn those odds – asking Isakson about his party’s presidential nominee, and the women who have accused him of sexual assault.
"Do you agree with Donald Trump that they’re lying? And I’d appreciate a yes or no answer," Barksdale asked Isakson, who didn’t answer that exact question.
"My 12-year-old granddaughter Elizabeth is in the audience today. I think we have a responsibility as public officials to be role models to our kids," Isakson said. "And anything that’s said that’s inappropriate or the least bit sexist or discriminatory should be abolished immediately."
Asked if he was still supporting Trump, Isakson said: "I’m going to vote for him as I support the ticket."
Isakson also said he is opposed to term limits. Alluding to Isakson’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, Libertarian Allen Buckley said Isakson should have retired this year.
"The best thing for Johnny, his family, our state and our country would be if he were not running right now," Buckley said. Isakson, age 71, disagreed. "The only way you attack things like Parkinson's is to be open and forthright about them. I’ve told everybody I intend to win that battle and I will win that battle." Isakson said.
On this one, Barksdale sided with Isakson. "I frankly applaud him for revealing it. And I don’t think he would be standing here today if it wasn’t appropriate. I’m not going to question that," Barksdale said.
But Buckley pressed on. "I’ve got the energy to put in the fight. No offense, but I’m younger than you. You’ve got more experience," Buckley said to Isakson, who immediately responded: "I’m not going to hold your immaturity and inexperience against you if you won’t hold my maturity against me."
Isakson also fought back when Democrat Jim Barksdale tried to liken him to Trump. Barksdale said that like Trump’s company, Isakson’s family real estate business was the target of a racial discrimination complaint in the 1970s.
"You both inherited your companies from your fathers. You’re both involved in the real estate business. And both were actually accused under the Fair Housing and Discrimination Act for discrimination against African American companies," Barksdale said to Isakson.
"My father was a great American businessman and I miss him to this day," Isakson answered. "He was accused in the 1970s when the final ruling was the case failed of proof. But we ended up going through an exercise of teaching all of our agents the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and 1966. Don’t ever bring up my father in a negative standpoint or make an accusation that my father was a discriminatory man," Isakson said to Barksdale.
Isakson said he never faced a discrimination case in the 22 years that he ran his family real estate company.
The debate will air on GPB Sunday night at 6. It will also air Monday night at 7 on WATL-TV.