McAuliffe: GOP rally's pledge to Jan. 6 flag was 'racist dog whistle'
Updated: 10/14/2021 05:32 PM EDT
Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe called on opponent Glenn Youngkin to condemn the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, labeling the use of a flag from the deadly riot at a Republican rally in the state a “racist dog whistle.”
McAuliffe’s remarks followed a “Take Back Virginia” rally outside Richmond on Wednesday in support of the Republican ticket in next month’s commonwealth-wide elections. Supporters at the rally, which was not attended by Youngkin, delivered the Pledge of Allegiance to an American flag that organizers said was at the Jan. 6 riot where supporters of then-President Donald Trump charged into the Capitol in an effort to block congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. That clash left multiple people dead, including one rioter who was shot during the insurrection and two police officers who killed themselves in the days after the riot.
“People have fought and died to protect the right to democracy and these thugs go here on Jan. 6 and destroy? People died. Law enforcement died,” McAuliffe told MSNBC on Thursday. “And they were pledging allegiance to a flag they wanted to use up there to destroy our democracy.”
“He needs to come out today and say it was wrong to do Pledge of Allegiance to that flag, and I want him to come out and say [the] Jan. 6 insurrection was wrong,” McAuliffe added.
While Youngkin was not in attendance at Wednesday’s rally, former Trump administration chief strategist Steve Bannon did address the crowd. Trump addressed the crowd, as well, telling rallygoers via telephone that “Glenn Youngkin is a great gentleman,” before delving into his long-debunked claims that last year’s presidential election was stolen.
“We won in 2016. We won in 2020 — the most corrupt election in the history of our country, probably one of the most corrupt anywhere. But we’re gonna win it again,” the former president said, rehashing claims for which there is no evidence.
On Thursday, McAuliffe’s campaign ran an ad blasting the Youngkin campaign for Trump’s call. The ad laid out what it called the “Trump-Youngkin agenda,” citing issues such as public education, vaccine mandates and abortion in Virginia.
“Glenn Youngkin has shown once again he is all in on Donald Trump’s dangerous, divisive, conspiracy theory-focused agenda and that his top priority is bringing Trump’s agenda to Virginia,” a press release from McAuliffe’s team said.
Youngkin’s running mate, lieutenant governor candidate Winsome Sears, was scheduled to address the rally but left before the program, according to The Washington Post .
Youngkin distanced himself from the event and condemned the pledge on Thursday afternoon, according to video from WUSA9’s Bruce Leshan.
“I wasn’t involved and so I don’t know,” Youngkin said. “But if that is the case, then we shouldn’t pledge allegiance to that flag. … I’ve been so clear: There is no place for violence, none, none, in America today.”
On Thursday evening, Youngkin released a statement addressing the Wednesday rally.
“While I had no role in last night’s event, I have heard about it from many people in the media today,” 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.”
In the statement, Youngkin said he wanted to bring people of all political parties together “around my vision for a Virginia that is safer, stronger, and less divisive.”
“McAuliffe wants to talk about the past because he sees this race is slipping away from him and he will say anything to try to get elected,” Youngkin said. “That’s all he can do because he doesn’t have a positive vision for Virginia.”
Earlier in the day, spokespeople from Youngkin’s campaign responded to an email request for comment with links showing Youngkin’s history on the topic, including to an Axios article in which Youngkin said that he would have certified the 2020 election .
“Terry McAuliffe is the only candidate in this race who has falsely claimed an election was stolen — he repeatedly refused to say George W. Bush was a legitimate president,” Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter said in a statement.