Youngkin distances himself from campaign's swipe at teen – The Washington Post

February 8, 2022
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RICHMOND — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) distanced himself Monday from a tweet mocking a teenager that his campaign account posted Saturday, calling it “unauthorized,” but the teen and his mother said they would like an apology after enduring two days of “bullying” on social media.
Democrats piled on, accusing the governor of violating his pledges to seek unity and lower the temperature of political disagreements.
The flap began when Ethan Lynne, 17, a high school student, retweeted a report over the weekend from the Richmond public radio station VPM raising questions about Youngkin’s commitment to programs that highlight the history of enslaved people at the Executive Mansion. “Team Youngkin” — the official Twitter account for Youngkin’s campaign — responded by attacking Lynne, posting a photo of the teen with former governor Ralph Northam that was taken at a Democratic fundraiser in the fall.
“Here’s a picture of Ethan with a man that had a Blackface/KKK photo in his yearbook,” Team Youngkin tweeted a little before 5 p.m. Saturday, posting the October photo alongside a racist picture from Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook that surfaced in 2019.
Youngkin campaign attacks high school student on Twitter
Although Team Youngkin removed the tweet late Sunday morning without comment, the posting drew immediate criticism from Democrats. Youngkin’s press secretary Macaulay Porter did not comment on the tweet, although Matt Wolking — a campaign spokesman who works for Youngkin as a strategist at Axiom Strategies — said the campaign removed the message after learning that Lynne was a minor. Wolking also suggested that Democrats had made Lynne a fair target by previously promoting him as a teen leader on Twitter.
On Monday morning, Youngkin used his personal Twitter account to disavow the campaign’s tweet.
“On Saturday night, an unauthorized tweet came from a campaign account. I regret that this happened and it shouldn’t have. I have addressed it with my team. We must continue to work to bring Virginians together. There is so much more that unites us than divides us,” Youngkin wrote.
The governor’s office did not respond to questions from The Washington Post about why it took Youngkin until Monday to address the situation.
The Republican Party of Virginia also declined to comment, and GOP lawmakers in the General Assembly largely steered clear of the topic.
In a text message to The Post on Monday, Lynne said he heard “Nada” directly from the governor or his office.
“While he acknowledged the situation, Governor Youngkin did not apologize and did not condemn what happened over the weekend,” Lynne tweeted Monday. “I still hope he does, and that he will take time to recognize the culture of toxicity he has created within his first month of office.”
In a Zoom news conference Monday afternoon hosted by the Democratic Party of Virginia, Lynne and his mother, Karen Lynne, said the governor’s message had made the teen the object of a firestorm of online harassment.
“This is similar to the online bullying tactics we saw from President Trump,” Ethan Lynne told reporters, noting that Youngkin had complained during his inaugural address that politics have become too toxic.
“I hope he realizes he has created this toxicity,” he said. Ethan Lynne conceded that he has spent a lot of time volunteering in Democratic politics and has served as a page in the Senate, but said he had been taught that “attacking minors is never the norm for a politician.”
Karen Lynne said she was proud of her son, adding: “My son and our family deserve an apology.”
Youngkin’s response also failed to satisfy many Democratic critics, who faulted him for the delay and lack of apology.
“Much better. Thank you. Let’s try this next time without it having to trend as the number one story nationally before you commented,” tweeted Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth). She also tweeted that she hoped Youngkin would follow up directly with Lynne.
But former delegate Jerrauld C. “Jay” Jones wasn’t having it. “For all that is holy can you apologize to @ethanclynne? This isn’t that — please live the deeply religious values you profess and say I’m sorry to a high school student. It isn’t that hard,” he tweeted.
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