Glenn Youngkin, the GOP candidate for Virginia’s governor, blamed Democrats after a group of tiki torch-toting activists claiming to be his supporters posed outside his campaign bus on Friday.
Youngkin campaigned in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Friday when the activists posed outside his campaign bus. Charlottesville was the site of the Unite the Right rally in 2017 in which white nationalists and neo-Nazis, many carrying tiki torches, marched through the city amidst a Confederate statue debate.
“These men approached @GlennYoungkin’s bus as it pulled up saying what sounded like, ‘We’re all in for Glenn.’ Here they are standing in front of the bus as his campaign event at Guadalajara started,” NBC 29 anchor Elizabeth Holmes tweeted along with a picture of five self-professed Youngkin supporters lined up outside the Republican’s campaign bus.
These men approached @GlennYoungkin’s bus as it pulled up saying what sounded like, “We’re all in for Glenn.” Here they are standing in front of the bus as his campaign event at Guadalajara started.@NBC29 pic.twitter.com/l681ejyBjc
— Elizabeth Holmes (@holmes_reports) October 29, 2021
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.
The Lincoln Project, a group founded by anti-Trump Republicans, claimed responsibility for the stunt on Friday. “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 group said in a statement.
When asked about the tiki torch activists, Youngkin said the group likely consisted of Democratic operatives sent to tarnish his campaign in the final days of the election.
“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.”
Youngkin’s claim echoed the claims of many online who pointed to either McAuliffe’s campaign or the Democratic Party of Virginia for organizing a political stunt against the GOP candidate. Both camps issued denials of having anything to do with the tiki torch activists.
“This was not us or anyone affiliated with our campaign,” McAuliffe’s campaign said in a statement to NBC 29.
“The Democratic Party of Virginia, along with its coordinated partners and its affiliates, did not have any role today in the events that happened outside the Youngkin campaign bus stop today,” the Democratic Party of Virginia said in a statement.
The state party went on to connect the stunt to the 2017 Unite the Right rally, in which one woman died after a man drive his car into a crowd of protesters. The party also denied allegations that several of the members of the tiki torch group were Democratic operatives working for the party.
“What happened four years ago was a tragedy and one of the darkest moments in our state’s recent memories and is an event not to be taken lightly. For anyone to accuse our staff to have a role in this event is shameful and wrong,” the statement said.
McAuliffe and Youngkin are locked in a tight race, days ahead of the election on November 2. According to a Washington Post-Schar School poll released Friday, McAuliffe barely leads Youngkin 49 points to 48. The poll, among Virginia’s likely voters, has a margin of error of 4 points. A Fox News poll showed Youngkin leading.
This article has been updated to include additional information.
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