Republican Glenn Youngkin’s Virginia gubernatorial campaign Friday mistakenly suggested Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s campaign of engaged in dirty tricks to tie Youngkin to racists – which the McAuliffe campaign denied in a statement to Fox News.
“Terry McAuliffe’s campaign has been the dirtiest, nastiest, most dishonest campaign in Virginia history. This morning they’re closing out his career by going even lower,” Youngkin campaign communications director Matt Wolking said in a tweet.
“This was not us or anyone affiliated with our campaign,” McAuliffe spokesperson Renzo Olivari responded. “There is one candidate in this race who has embraced white nationalists — and his name is Glenn Youngkin.”
Late Friday afternoon, the Lincoln Project, a group founded by disaffected anti-Trump former Republican operatives, admitted to pulling the stunt.
“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.
The controversy began Friday morning when a reporter for NBC 29 posted a tweet of five people who were carrying tiki torches and wearing khakis, white shirts and sunglasses standing in the rain in front of Youngkin’s campaign bus. According to that reporter, the people said, “We’re all in for Glenn.”
The outfits resembled what some wore at the 2018 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., where multiple white supremacist groups protested. Those groups clashed with counter-protesters, and one person died.
Of the five people at the Friday scene in front of Youngkin’s campaign bus, one was Black and another was a woman.
Some on social media speculated that the people were not in fact white supremacists but instead were Democrats intending to make Youngkin look bad.
Despite denying their involvement, staffers for McAuliffe’s campaign amplified the photo in a series of tweets.
It is not clear exactly who the people in the photo are. It is possible that they were Democrats who were not affiliated with the McAuliffe campaign. The Virginia Democratic Party said neither it nor its affiliates were involved in the events by the Youngkin bus.
A spokesperson for the Youngkin campaign did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment on the McAuliffe denial.
The contentious gubernatorial campaign in Virginia has included apparently inauthentic campaign tricks already, with Republicans amplifying images of a sign that said “Keep Parents Out Of Classrooms Vote McAuliffe.” WUSA reported that the McAuliffe and Youngkin campaigns both denied that they were behind those signs.
Fox News’ Alexandria Hoff, Houston Keene and Rich Edson contributed to this report.