Anti-Trump Group's Tiki Stunt Against Glenn Youngkin May Hurt Terry McAuliffe in Virginia

The Lincoln Project has been condemned for a stunt targeting the Republican gubernatorial candidate for Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, in which it sent people mimicking white nationalists to stand outside his campaign bus.

The action on Friday by the PAC has prompted concerns that it could harm the election prospects of the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, whom it had intended to help.

Lis Smith, a former senior advisor to Democratic primary candidate Pete Buttigieg tweeted: "What a massive, massive screw up. The last thing that the McAuliffe campaign needed this weekend. A total disservice to the hundreds of hard-working staffers on the ground."

Meanwhile, Mark Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, told The Washington Post: "The overreach backfires because it is so ridiculous in its execution it hurts the point they're trying to make."

Glenn Youngkin and Terry McAuliffe
Republican and Democratic candidates for Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin (L) and Terry McAuliffe on the campaign trail. The Lincoln Project has been slammed for a stunt targeting Youngkin in which a group dressed as white nationalists. Getty

A group dressed similarly to white nationalists and holding tiki torches stood outside Youngkin's bus in Charlottesville in a nod to the protesters who had descended on the city in 2017 during the "Unite the Right's" racially charged rally.

Both candidates for governor denied being connected to Friday's stunt.

After speculation grew that Democratic operatives had organized the action, the Lincoln Project admitted responsibility. The activist Lauren Windsor said that she had worked with the PAC on the stunt "to defend our democracy from rightwing extremists."

The PAC, which opposes the former President Donald Trump and his allies, said in a statement it wanted to highlight how Youngkin had not condemned the white nationalists at the rally four years ago.

The PAC criticized Youngkin, whom the former president has endorsed, for his "continued failure to denounce Donald Trump's 'very fine people on both sides.'" This refers to Trump's controversial assessment of the rally during which one person was killed.

However, many questioned the wisdom and taste of pulling the stunt soon after the start of the trial of the leading figures in the Unite the Right rally.

Virginia legislator Sally Hudson tweeted: "Charlottesville is not a prop. Our community is still reeling from years of trauma—especially this week. Don't come back, @ProjectLincoln. Your stunts aren't welcome here."

The journalist, Jordan Fischer described the timing of the stunt as an "extremely gross thing," while Josh Jordan tweeted that the action "was horribly executed and probably helped Youngkin."

Meanwhile, GOP congressman Joe Walsh (R-IL) tweeted: "What a stupid, desperate, dishonest thing to do. @ProjectLincoln, you ought to be ashamed of yourselves."

McAuliffe's campaign manager Chris Bolling condemned the action as "disgusting and distasteful" tweeting that "those involved should immediately apologize."

Newsweek has contacted the Lincoln Project for comment.

A Fox News poll this week showed that Youngkin had surged ahead of McAuliffe by eight points in the bellwether ballot for the 2022 midterms.

The GOP contender was backed by 53 percent while the Democratic hopeful is supported by just 45 percent according to the survey carried out between October 24 and October 27.