‘How To Play Hardball’: Lincoln Project Defends Tiki Torch Stunt At Youngkin Event

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Despite a stinging national backlash and a general consensus that the stunt backfired, the Lincoln Project has defended its decision to have a group of activists dressed as tiki-torch-bearing white nationalists proclaim their support for Republican Glenn Youngkin, the frontrunner in the Virginia governor’s race.

On Friday, CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Stuart Stevens, an adviser to the ‘Never Trump’ organization, if the move was a dirty trick or hypocritical.

“No,” said Stevens. “Every day, I hear people pleading with the Lincoln Project to help show Democrats how to win, how to play hardball.”

In fact, a 2020 study conducted by the left-wing PAC Priorities USA found that the Lincoln Project’s ads did virtually nothing to convince swing state voters to support Joe Biden.

In its latest controversial move, young people wearing clothes similar to those worn by Alt-Right activists at the “Unite the Right” rally showed up at a Youngkin campaign event in Charlottesville and said, “We’re all in for Glenn!” The 2017 rally ended in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer. As The Daily Wire reported:

The image sparked an immediate condemnation from the campaign of former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Youngkin’s Democratic opponent. “This is disgusting and disqualifying,” McAuliffe spokeswoman Jen Goodman said. …

“I think they work for Terry McAuliffe, and I’m sure he sent them,” Youngkin said, according to NBC 29. “They’ll do anything to win, and he’s doing anything to win, and so he’s paying people to show up and act silly at our rallies.”

The Lincoln Project, which began as a group of Never Trump Republicans declaring themselves true conservatives, admitted responsibility later in the day.

Although the action did not appear to help McAuliffe, the Lincoln Project threatened to repeat it again before Tuesday’s gubernatorial election.

“Today’s demonstration was our way of reminding Virginians what happened in Charlottesville four years ago, the Republican Party’s embrace of those values, and Glenn Youngkin’s failure to condemn it,” the organization said in a statement released on Friday. “If [Youngkin] will denounce Trump’s assertion that the Charlottesville rioters possessed ‘very fine’ qualities, we’ll withdraw the tiki torches. Until then, we’ll be back.”

On Friday night, Stevens deflected questions about the propriety of the action, and failed to address whether he intended to mislead Virginia voters into thinking that Charlottesville activists actually back Youngkin.

“The question here is it’s not about some guys who showed up at a rally,” Stevens told Cuomo. “It’s, ‘Why hasn’t Glenn Youngkin denounced Donald Trump, for saying that there were good people on both sides’” of the Charlottesville violence.

“No, look, I hear the question,” Cuomo responded. “It’s a legitimate one.” He then turned to Democratic strategist James Carville, who proclaimed, “I kind of agree with what Stuart said. It was to illustrate a point that Youngkin has not denounced Trump saying ‘There were fine people on both sides’  in Charlottesville.”

The urban legend that President Trump praised neo-Nazis as “very fine people” turns up repeatedly, although it has been debunked numerous times. The day of the deadly rally, Trump tweeted, “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets [sic] come together as one!” During off-the-cuff remarks after the event, Trump specified that when he made positive remarks about some people who oppose toppling historical statues, “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the White nationalists, because they should be condemned totally.”

Cuomo’s colleague, Jake Tapper, admitted in April 2019 that President Trump was “not saying that the neo-Nazis and white supremacists are very fine people.”

Since the 2020 presidential race temporarily put an end to President Trump’s political campaigns, the Lincoln Project has been casting around for new contests to fuel its funding apparatus. On Thursday, the Lincoln Project released a video that accuses critics of using the term “Critical Race Theory” as a substitute for the most ubiquitous anti-black slur.

Polls show Youngkin pulling ahead of McAuliffe after the former governor exclaimed during a debate, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” An increasingly frazzled McAuliffe has tried to regain his momentum, having President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris campaign for him. Late last week, a McAuliffe aide reportedly told a Fox News reporter to “f*** off.”

The Lincoln Project has also suffered a number of setbacks in the last year, including a revelation by conservative writer Ryan Girdusky that the group’s co-founder John Weaver had sexually harassed young men, and a failed outreach to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) who dismissed the project’s work as bordering on “scam territory.”

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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