Pastor who hosted Fidel Castro donated thousands to Warnock campaign

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Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts III, senior pastor of the church that hosted Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in 1995 and also employed Rev. Raphael Warnock, has donated thousands of dollars to the reverend’s Senate campaign. 

At the time, Butts praised Castro as "one of the great leaders of the world." 

According to the latest Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing, Butts has offered $1,500 in donations since Nov. 27, totaling $3,250 for the election cycle. 

Democrat Warnock is facing off against Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in one of two highly contentious Georgia Senate runoffs on Jan. 5 that will determine the control of the Senate. 

Warnock's campaign has said he was a junior member of the staff at the time Castro spoke at the church and was not a decision-maker. Warnock was a youth pastor for the church at the time. 

The 1995 event came as the U.S. allowed Castro to stay within a 25-mile radius of the United Nations in New York City, where he denounced the U.S.'s embargo on Cuba and received applause from some at the General Assembly. 

Castro received a similarly warm reception at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where Warnock worked at the time. The Miami Herald reported at the time that Castro "blast[ed] the United States with the vigor that was missing from his speech to the United Nations earlier in the day and winding up the evening with a rousing rendition of the socialist hymn Internationale." 


In C-SPAN footage of the event, head pastor Butts appears to praise Castro, prompting chants of "Fidel! Fidel! Fidel!" from the audience. A translation of Castro's speech revealed him wondering why he was welcomed at the church, and noting that he changed from his business suit into military fatigues as he prepared for the event. He also described the blockade as "crazy" and "obsolete." What appears to be additional footage on YouTube pans to the audience cheering Castro.


Butts defended the decision to invite Castro, arguing it was "in our tradition to welcome those who are visionary, who are revolutionary, and who seek the freedom of all of the people around the world."

Fox News' Sam Dorman contributed to this report. 

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