Disgraced anti-Republican group The Lincoln Project and its co-founder Steve Schmidt were blasted by the Charlottesville city council Thursday over planting fake protesters last week in outfits similar to those worn by “Unite the Right” demonstrators at the notorious 2017 Charlottesville rally.
The event, which took place in the final week of Virginia’s gubernatorial race, saw five people dressed in white polo shirts and khaki pants, carrying unlit tiki torches and standing outside Republican Glenn Youngkin’s campaign bus chanting, “We’re all in for Glenn.”
In a letter addressed to Schmidt, the city council accused the group of tearing open “a still-healing wound” with the “political prank,” and declared that the cosplaying operatives were not welcome back in Charlottesville.
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“Tiki torches wielded by young men in white polo shirts and khakis mean one thing in Charlottesville – we are under attack,” the council wrote. “For many of our residents who confronted the Nazis and white supremacists on our streets … seeing your operatives in white polo shirts and khakis carrying (even unlit) tiki torches caused a PTSD flashback to those traumatic days.”
“You seem to regard ‘Charlottesville’ as nothing more than a political meme, and parading mock white supremacists around our city as nothing more than political cosplay,” it added. “You clearly do not understand the extent to which your ‘prank’ inflicted real emotional pain on innocent people here in Charlottesville.”
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“Please do not bring your cosplaying operatives back to Charlottesville. We do not wish to be the backdrop for your next exercise in political theater,” the council wrote.
The Lincoln Project faced a rash of other criticism over the stunt, and ultimately failed in their attempt to help Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe defeat Youngkin. It was condemned as a hamfisted attempt to smear Youngkin supporters as racists.
Emails reported on by The Intercept showed the Lincoln Project seemingly wanted it to be an obvious stunt to tie Youngkin to Donald Trump, which McAuliffe desperately sought to do throughout the campaign. The report claimed the Lincoln Project operatives were supposed to identify themselves as part of the left-wing PAC if asked who they were by reporters, but no one in the media did.
However, one Reuters editor said the hoaxers did not answer questions about their identities.
Also, Lauren Windsor, a consultant who coordinated with the Lincoln Project on the tiki torch incident, tweeted out surprised emojis in response to the initial reporter’s tweet drawing attention to the bizarre situation.
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Despite the organization spending $300,000 on his defeat, Youngkin was elected governor on Tuesday, the first Republican to do since 2009.