Democratic gubernatorial nominee and former governor Terry McAuliffe in a press call Thursday morning aimed to highlight a close alliance between his Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin and former President Donald Trump.
McAuliffe referenced Wednesday night’s Trump rally in Richmond where, according to the Washington Post and McAuliffe, attendees pledged allegiance to an American flag brought to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Youngkin did not attend last night’s rally in Glen Allen at which Trump, who previously announced his nomination for the Republican nominee, told the crowd, “Glenn Youngkin is a great gentleman.” Trump then claimed Joe Biden won the presidency through voter fraud, the Post reported, an assertion disproved in multiple courts of law.
McAuliffe, in Wednesday’s press conference, called on Youngkin to disavow the hateful rhetoric and conspiracy theories and to go in front of a camera and state that it was not appropriate to pledge allegiance to a flag that tried to destroy American democracy on Jan. 6.
“Anything less than that is unacceptable,” McAuliffe said. “I’m asking him to stop all of the conspiracy theories, election fraud, auditing our machines and to talk about things that will unite us here as Virginians to move this great state forward.”
Later on Monday Youngkin released a statement about the flag.
“While I had no role in last night’s event, I have heard about it from many people,” he said. “It is weird and wrong to pledge allegiance to a flag connected to January 6. As I have said many times before, the violence that occurred on January 6 was sickening and wrong.”
Other speakers at Wednesday’s “Take Back Virginia Rally” included former Trump adviser Steve Bannon; Rep. Mark Finchem of Arizona and Virginia state Sen. Amanda Chase, a prominent Trump supporter who has promoted conspiracy theories. Radio talk show host John Fredericks organized it.
At Tuesday’s “Parents Matter” rally Youngkin held in Culpeper, the candidate did not mention Trump, election fraud or any conspiracy theories. During the GOP nomination battle, Youngkin, a former CEO, played up the Trump association in a campaign ad showing Trump praising Youngkin and his company, the Carlyle Group, for helping with the China trade deal.
In September Youngkin said, “With regard to January 6, there is no room for violence in America. None. Absolutely not. And therefore, I think there’s no room for it. We must condemn it every day of the week.”
McAuliffe has been relentless in playing up the relationship between his opponent and the ex-president while Youngkin has since downplayed it.
McAuliffe said in the press call Wednesday that Youngkin “bought the nomination with $12 million of his own dollars” and that he is running because of Trump. McAuliffe said Youngkin had “indulged theories” that Trump could actually be reinstated as president.
McAuliffe, while governor, said he called Trump in 2017 during the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and begged him to do a press conference to condemn the actions of white supremacists, resulting in the death of protestor Heather Heyer. Soon after, Trump came out and released a statement that “There were good people on both sides.”
“Tell these folks to go home, they parade around like they are patriots—they aren’t. They’re a bunch of cowards,” McAuliffe said.
The former Virginia governor denied claims by Youngkin, repeated at the Culpeper rally, that McAuliffe was somehow involved in calling in the FBI to investigate harassment, mostly by parents, of local school board officials.
“It’s the first pants on fire we have in this campaign,” McAuliffe said Wednesday. “I never called anybody, requested anything, had no involvement. …Goes to the point … continual conspiracy theory on everything, the election, trying to rev up people and create division and hatred. He won’t take questions, I will answer any question you want. It’s unbecoming of someone who wants to be the next governor of Virginia.”
McAuliffe said he was going to win the election and that most Virginians were happy with the economy he built as governor, creating 200,000 new jobs and making record investments in education.
The Democrat said he had 20 serious policy goals, 166 pages, laid out for his next term as governor. Youngkin doesn’t have an agenda or healthcare plan, McAuliffe said Wednesday.
“Trump wannabe,” he said, calling on his opponent to disavow the Jan. 6 attack in Washington.
“I would love to hear my opponent say what they did...is unacceptable. How hard is that for a candidate for governor to say?”