RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia's Republican candidate for governor said Thursday that it was “weird and wrong” for attendees at a recent right-wing election rally to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to a flag said to have been flown at a rally just before the Capitol riot in January.
Glenn Youngkin, a businessman and first-time candidate, did not attend Wednesday's rally in suburban Richmond. The event was organized by a surrogate of former President Donald Trump to fire up conservatives ahead of Virginia's critical Nov. 2 election and was full of falsehoods about election fraud.
Youngkin was pressed Thursday by Democrats to disavow the use of such a flag during the pledge, as well as the Jan. 6 insurrection.
In a statement Thursday afternoon, Youngkin 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.”
Youngkin is in a tight race with former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who held the office from 2014 to 2018.
Trump called in by phone Wednesday night to the “Take Back Virginia Rally” and exhorted the crowd to vote for Youngkin, whom he had previously endorsed.
During a Thursday morning call with reporters, McAuliffe issued an appeal to Youngkin to “go before the cameras” and say that the pledge to that flag had been inappropriate.
McAullife called the Wednesday rally “one of the darkest moments Glenn Youngkin's campaign.” His campaign quickly released a new TV ad highlighting the event and Trump’s phone call.
After Youngkin issued his statement, McAuliffe tweeted: “'Weird'”?? Glenn - people died during the January 6th riot Donald Trump and others celebrated in your honor last night. If you can’t condemn last night’s rally and Trump’s deadly conspiracies, you don’t have the courage or character to serve as governor."
John Fredericks, a radio show host and former Virginia campaign chairman for Trump, organized the event. While Youngkin and other candidates stayed away, Youngkin also thanked Fredericks for hosting the rally.
Sarah Rankin, The Associated Press