The Lincoln Project has claimed credit for organizing a demonstration meant to draw a connection between Republican Glenn Youngkin’s campaign for governor and the white nationalist march in Charlottesville in 2017.
On Friday, a number of tiki-torch wielding, sunglasses-clad individuals showed up at a Youngkin event, where they posed for pictures in front of the candidate’s campaign bus, dressed up like the 2017 marchers.
“Today’s demonstration was our way of reminding Virginia voters of what happened in Charlottesville four years ago, the Republican party’s embrace of those values, and Glenn Youngkin’s failure to condemn it,” the Lincoln Project said in a statement.
Jen Goodman, a communications staffer for the campaign of Youngkin’s opponent, Terry McAuliffe, and a number of other Democrats used the group — which was neither invited nor lauded by Youngkin — to suggest that Youngkin’s campaign had dark racial undertones. Goodman called the incident “disgusting and disqualifying.”
The Lincoln Project statement comes after social media users speculated that the hoax may have been organized by the McAuliffe campaign, or progressive activists. Some social media users speculated on their identities, noting that the torch-holders looked similar to certain members of the Virginia Democratic Party.
In response, the party released the following statement:
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 of the Youngkin campaign bus stop today. What happened in Charlottesville four years ago was a tragedy and one of the darkest moments in our state’s recent memories and is an even not to be taken lightly. For anyone to accuse our staff to have a role in this event is shameful and wrong.
Over the last 24 hours, Youngkin has taken leads in both the RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight polling averages.
The Lincoln Project was formed by a group of disaffected Republican operatives in the wake of President Trump’s 2016 election. The group focused on producing vitriolic ads mirroring Trump’s crude language, and its founders gained notoriety through frequent appearances on MSNBC. They have since come under fire for failing to address reports that one of their founding members, John Weaver, frequently made sexual advances toward young men online, some of whom were underage.