Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s top election official, has found himself in a rather unusual spot – on Russia’s blacklist. The Georgia Secretary of State was one of 500 Americans deemed persona non grata by the Russian government for allegedly spreading “Russophobia” or aiding Ukraine. Raffensperger, never one to shy away from the spotlight, embraced the recognition with a dash of humor.
“While I was previously unaware of my anti-Russian activities, I accept the verdict of Russia, whose commitment to truth, justice and the rule of law speaks for itself,” Raffensperger said. He went on to say that his commitment to free, fair, and accurate elections, not to mention his habit of speaking truth to power and his strong stance against war crimes, might indeed ruffle the feathers of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I accept that I’m not their cup of Russian tea,” he quipped.
The list has been described as an assortment of names, including late-night TV hosts Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers, as well as CNN anchors and contributors such as Erin Burnett, Nick Paton Walsh, Bianna Golodryga, and Timothy Naftali.
Notable political figures on the list include former U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman, Sens. J.D. Vance, Katie Britt, and Eric Schmitt, and 45 members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Tech executives like Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft President Brad Smith, along with Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman, also found their names on the blacklist. It appears that the list includes individuals Russia accuses of spreading Russophobia, supplying Ukraine with arms, and those involved in the persecution of dissidents following the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Raffensperger, in his typical tongue-in-cheek style, expressed gratitude for his inclusion on the list. “My inclusion on this list is deserved, and I appreciate them thinking of me,” he stated. In a final nod to the absurdity of the situation, he assured his Georgians that he had no plans or intentions of going to Russia anyway.
Despite the levity, the move by Russia to ban these Americans carries a serious undertone. It comes in response to the regularly anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the Joe Biden administration, a stance that has garnered bipartisan support in the United States. The sanctions were levied as a result of Russia’s actions in Ukraine and other instances of international aggression.
In the state of Georgia, Raffensperger’s response may not come as a surprise. Known for his commitment to upholding the integrity of elections, he has been a vocal critic of misinformation and disinformation, a stance that has sometimes placed him at odds with his own party.
While the ban from Russia is largely symbolic, it underscores the escalating tensions between the U.S. and Russia. It serves as a reminder of the global stage on which these political dramas play out, and the far-reaching impacts of actions taken at the highest levels of government.
For now, though, Raffensperger can add “banned by Russia” to his list of achievements, a badge he seems to wear with pride and a sense of humor.