Georgia attorney general to investigate racist text sent to Atlanta mayor over pandemic

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ATLANTA — Georgia’s top law enforcement official launched an investigation Friday into a racist text message sent to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms regarding her efforts to shutter the city during the coronavirus pandemic.

Attorney General Chris Carr directed his office’s prosecution division to investigate who sent the text less than an hour after Georgia Democrats urged him to launch the probe, a spokeswoman said Friday.

The mayor tweeted late Wednesday that she received the message, which used a racial slur and demanded she “just shut up and RE-OPEN ATLANTA!”

In a response, she wrote that she would pray for the anonymous sender and offered a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.

The message was sent to the mayor’s personal mobile phone, but a spokesman said that the number is the same used — and often published — when Bottoms was a member of the Atlanta City Council.

The Atlanta Democrat has emerged as one of the sharpest critics of Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to allow many businesses in Georgia to reopen, and has stated that she was blindsided by the order.

In an interview Thursday, the mayor said she broadcast the tweet as a reminder that “no matter what title we have, no matter our economic bracket, we’re not immune to racism in America.”

She added: “And it certainly doesn’t help when there are these underlying currents that come from the top.”

Earlier Friday, a group of about a dozen Georgia Democratic lawmakers called upon Carr to launch an investigation, noting that the “text message purported to be from an official State of Georgia email account.”

“Though it is unlikely this came from a sanctioned account, we request that your office immediately investigate to make sure that a State employee did not send this text message,” they wrote.

“In the more likely event that this text came from a spoof account purporting to be from a email address, we also request that your office investigate and determine the culprits behind this intimidating message.”

State Sen. Jen Jordan, who signed the letter, said she was “incredibly grateful” for Carr’s quick response.

“We’re all going through a difficult time and we’re in the middle of a crisis. The last thing we need is for people to take advantage of this situation and push hateful messages,” she said. “This is something we just can’t tolerate.”

State Rep. William Boddie, who also signed the letter, said it was crucial for authorities to quickly determine who sent the text.

“We don’t want it to look like the state of Georgia is condoning the racist comments,” said Boddie, an East Point Democrat. “We have to know. This cannot be the new norm, and we can’t tolerate this being new norm.”

House Speaker David Ralston also praised Carr for his “prompt attention to this very disturbing matter” and said he was disgusted Bottoms and her family were targeted.

“Racism has no place in Georgia and anyone who would attempt to masquerade as acting on behalf of state government deserves to be met with the full force of law,” he said.


(Political columnist Jim Galloway contributed to this report.)


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