CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WRIC) — White shirts, khaki pants and tiki torches – the five people standing near a campaign event for Glenn Youngkin on Oct. 29 were decked out in the recognizable uniform of white supremacy.
But they weren’t affiliated with any white supremacist organization.
They were sent to the rally by the Lincoln Project, a conservative political action committee (PAC) formed to oppose former president Donald Trump and support the campaign of President Joe Biden.
The purpose of the stunt, according to a press release from the PAC claiming responsibility, was to draw attention to “Glenn Youngkin’s continued failure to denounce Donald Trump’s ‘very fine people on both sides.'”
The statement references Trump’s equivocal statement on the white supremacists who gathered in Charlottesville on August 11 and 12, 2017 for the “Unite the Right” rally. That weekend, neo-nazi James Fields drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring dozens.
The stunt on Friday drew condemnation from all corners of Virginia politics.
“I don’t care who claims responsibility for it,” said Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin in a statement. “It was done by the Democrats. And that is absolutely beyond the pale in Virginia.”
Youngkin also tied the stunt to McAuliffe’s campaign, saying it “sits at Terry’McAuliffe’s feet,” and that he had taken an “abhorrent” event and turned it into a “campaign stunt.”
In an email to 8News, Ryan Wiggins, communications director for the Lincoln Project, claimed that the PAC had “not coordinated with the [McAuliffe] campaign or the state party.”
While the Lincoln Project has spent nearly $300,000 dollars on ads supporting Terry McAuliffe’s campaign, VPAP reports that they haven’t made any direct contribution to McAuliffe. PACs are barred by law from coordinating independent expenditures with campaigns.
Chris Bolling, campaign manager for Terry McAuliffe, called the event “distasteful and disgusting,” urging “those involved” to apologize.
On Twitter, a representative of the Virginia Democratic Party said the state party had played no role in the stunt.
Molly Conger, a community activist who documents white supremacist activity in and around Charlottesville, said the timing of the stunt was especially egregious, coming as the trial of the organizers of “Unite the Right” began just miles away.
Glenn Youngkin’s running mate, Winsome Sears, called the event ‘despicable.’