Fani Willis Talks About Race in New Speech Despite Judge McAfee’s Rebuke

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis spoke about race in a speech on Friday, seemingly in response to part of Judge Scott McAfee’s recent order that said she could remain on Donald Trump’s Georgia election interference case.

Last year, Willis charged the former president and 18 others for efforts to allegedly overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, which Trump claimed was stolen from him despite a lack of evidence. Her investigation focused on Trump’s phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he allegedly asked him to find enough votes to tilt the election in his favor against Joe Biden, and the alleged plot to submit a false slate of pro-Trump electors to the Electoral College. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges, maintaining his innocence.

However, the case was halted after attorneys representing one of Trump’s co-defendants raised concerns about the relationship between Willis and the lead prosecutor on the case, Nathan Wade. Willis then found herself at the center of a potential ethics violations related to the alleged affair.

Willis previously rejected the accusations and said during a speech in January at an Atlanta church that her critics were “playing the race card” given that they had singled out Wade, who is Black.

As part of his March 15 ruling, McAfee focused on Willis’ January speech and noted that “the District Attorney described the effort [to disqualify her] as motivated by ‘playing the race card.'”

On Friday, Willis appeared at the South Fulton Women of the Shield Awards where she said, “It’s hard out here always having to prove yourself two and three times. Recently, they tell me, they don’t like me to talk about race. Well, I’m going to talk about it anyway. Truth is, there’s some challenges that come with being Black. And I see so much greatness in this city that has so many great African American leaders. And I appreciate all of the sacrifice that you all have had to make to be in these positions.”

McAfee ruled that Willis could stay on the case against Trump if she removed Wade, who ultimately resigned from his position.

In his order, McAfee took issue with Willis’ comments that she and Wade were being scrutinized because of their race. Willis later said she was referring to the defendants, however McAfee said making a distinction was unclear due to Willis’ reference to “so many others” and “they” in her January speech.

Fani Willis in NYC
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks onstage at The Apollo Theater on December 5, 2023, in New York City. Willis spoke about race in a speech on Friday, seemingly in response to part of…

AFP/Getty Images

“In these public and televised comments, the District Attorney complained that a Fulton County Commissioner ‘and so many others’ questioned her decision to hire SADA Wade. When referring to her detractors throughout the speech, she frequently utilized the plural ‘they.’ The State argues the speech was not aimed at any of the Defendants in this case. Maybe so. But maybe not. Therein lies the danger of public comment by a prosecuting attorney,” McAfee wrote in his ruling.

Newsweek reached out to the offices of Willis and McAfee on Saturday afternoon via email. This story will be updated with any provided statements.

John Clifford Floyd III, Willis’ father, testified in February that Willis was forced to move from her South Fulton home after being harassed and receiving death threats.

“The South Fulton police brought a man with a dog, because there were so many death threats,” he said. “They said they were going to blow up the house, they said they were going to kill her, kill me, kill her grandchildren.”

Once Willis moved, she kept the location of her new home secret from her father due to the threats, he testified.

On Friday, Willis also thanked officers for keeping her and her family safe.

“I have put extra strain on this police department because you’ve had to take extra steps to make sure we are safe,” she said. “Over the last three years now, I love this police department like no other. I’ve put a lot of burden on this police department and some of the women that are here today. Y’all have gone out of your way to make sure that me and my girls were safe and that has been very appreciated.”

In a new court filing on Friday, Trump’s attorneys appealed McAfee’s decision for Willis to remain on the case, arguing that “the trial court erred as a matter of law by not requiring dismissal and DA Willis’ disqualification.”

For an appeal to move forward, the Georgia Court of Appeals will have to agree to take up the case. Willis’ office also has 10 days to respond to the application, which they may oppose.

No trial date has been set in the Georgia criminal case, one of four that the former president is facing as he heads towards a likely November rematch with Biden in this year’s upcoming presidential election.