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Pro-gun-safety candidates swept Virginia’s three statewide offices in the 2017 elections, showing that it is prudent to run against the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) agenda and to make gun safety a centerpiece issue of campaigns. These candidates' victories help debunk a myth propogated by the media that gun violence prevention is a losing issue at the polls.
Victorious candidates in Virginia elections last night included Ralph Northam, who won the governor’s seat by nearly nine points, Justin Fairfax, who won the lieutenant governor’s race (both of whom have received “F” ratings from the NRA because of their positions on gun policy), and Mark Herring, who was re-elected attorney general. In 2013, Herring made gun safety a prominent issue of his campaign, and his actions as attorney general led the NRA to label him “one of the most anti-gun lawmakers in Virginia history.”
According to election night exit polls, Northam and Republican candidate Ed Gillespie tied among voters whose primary issue was gun policy:
Buried in exit poll: Northam, F-rated by the NRA, TIED with voters whose #1 issue was guns. pic.twitter.com/0hIxGwctr0
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) November 8, 2017
Another candidate who is often linked to gun violence prevention is Chris Hurst, who won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. In 2015, Hurst’s girlfriend, television news reporter Alison Parker, was fatally shot during a live broadcast. Hurst, who beat NRA-endorsed Joseph Yost, ran on a platform focused on reducing gun violence specifically for people of color and women who have escaped abusive relationships.
But the NRA media myth about gun violence prevention being a losing issue at polls still persists.
During a November 8 segment on NPR’s Morning Edition about the NRA’s influence, commentator Cokie Roberts said of the group, “I have to hand it to the NRA. They participate, they organize, they contribute, they vote. That’s the way you influence legislation. And if the other side wants to get gun control done, they can’t just tell awful stories. They have to organize and contribute in the same degree.” The results in Virginia are yet another example disproving this analysis, with the NRA failing to rally its supporters to deliver any of the three statewide officers to its preferred candidate.
Winning despite the NRA’s campaign efforts is not a new trend for Virginia’s pro-gun-safety politicians. In 2013, the NRA spent $500,000 to beat Mark Herring in his bid for attorney general. After he won, his campaign manager said that Herring pulled off the victory by running on a strong record of supporting sensible gun legislation. Similarly, the NRA efforts against Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s statewide races have also repeatedly come up short. Like Northam, McAuliffe bragged about his “F” rating from the NRA during the 2013 gubernatorial race.
The myth that gun safety is a losing issue dates back to the 1994 congressional midterm elections and the 2000 presidential election in which pundits blamed losses on candidates’ support for gun safety measures. Evidence-based research into those elections has long disproved those theories, which the NRA has nevertheless promoted in order to bolster its image.
In the days leading up to the November 7 gubernatorial election in Virginia, Breitbart.com and Breitbart radio were increasingly touting Republican candidate Ed Gillespie’s turn toward “the nationalist-populist base.” Breitbart staffers and Executive Chairman Stephen Bannon argued that Gillespie’s embrace of “the Trump agenda” -- through issues such as linking undocumented immigrants to the violent gang MS-13 and keeping Confederate monuments -- were the reason for his “momentum.” However, as soon as the race was called for Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, Breitbart quickly changed tack, labeling Gillespie an “establishment” “Republican swamp thing,” and declaring that he was “scarcely a MAGA candidate.” Here’s how Breitbart covered Gillespie's embrace of Trumpism … until he lost.
On the November 8 edition of SiriusXM Patriot’s Breitbart News Daily, Breitbart Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow said Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie lost the Virginia election because he is “the definition of the swamp.” Breitbart Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon commented that the Republicans “should not give up the minority areas” or “the Hispanic areas,” as he implied Gillespie did. Bannon’s comments stand in stark contrast to his statement just two days prior that MS-13 and sanctuary cities were two issues where “Gillespie caught fire because he’s embracing Trumpism.” Gillespie's fearmongering around those issues was a key part of the failed candidate's rightly condemned appeal to racism.
A day before the election, Ken Klukowski, legal editor of Breitbart.com, commented on Breitbart News Daily that “Gillespie's focus in the campaign’s final weeks on immigration” and other issues, including Confederate monuments, “is in harmony with the president’s position,” which Bannon summarized as “the Trump agenda.” Klukowski said that as Gillespie had “embraced” the Trump agenda, “he has come from behind to potentially take the lead in the final days.” Bannon, who was co-hosting, claimed that the election “all [came] down to kind of the Trump issues,” such as “sanctuary cities” and “MS-13”:
According to Breitbart.com, Bannon also said during the November 6 show that “when the Gillespie campaign start[ed] to really embrace the Trump agenda, and part of that is sanctuary cities – deporting guys like these gangs, MS-13 -- … all of a sudden, Gillespie caught fire because he’s embracing Trumpism.”
Breitbart also extolled the supposed virtues of Gillespie’s racist campaign in a November 6 article: “Gillespie initially trailed in the polls to [Democrat Ralph] Northam. However, in the last few weeks, Gillespie tied, and in some polls beat, Northam by making MS-13 a focal point of his campaign.” The article further stated that “Gillespie also promised to sign legislation that would ban sanctuary cities” in Virginia.
But after Gillespie lost to Northam, Bannon said the Republican Party should “not give up the minority areas” and “the Hispanic areas,” demographics negatively smeared by Gillespie’s racist campaign. From the November 8 edition of SiriusXM Patriot’s Breitbart News Daily:
ALEX MARLOW: As Virginia is -- even though the candidate was Ed Gillespie, who is the definition of the swamp. He's a lobbyist. I mean, he's a guy who is -- campaigns with [former presidential hopeful Jeb] Bush, [former Secretary of State] Condi Rice, [Florida Republican Sen.] Marco Rubio, the exact people that the Trump voter base rejected. He has huge authenticity problems. Seems like a decent man personally, but far from inspiring. You got this encroaching swamp attitude in Northern Virginia, which really makes Northern Virginia a subsidiary of Washington, D.C. And yet you're going to hear non-stop hot takes about how this was a rejection of the Trump agenda. It almost seems farcical, but it is something we have to combat.
STEPHEN BANNON: Well I think it does. And I think it also -- when you talk about some of these demographic areas, it’s incumbent upon -- and this is why I think you need people that really embrace the Trump agenda and understand it to be out there on the hustings selling it -- is that we should not give up the minority areas, we should not give up the Hispanic areas, we should not give up the black middle class and working class areas. Now, economic nationalism is really don't be the big beneficiaries. Remember, the people that are most abused by the global elites are the black and Hispanic working class and then the minority middle class. And it’s just -- it’s outrageous. But you need people that really believe this message to the nerve marrow of their bones, I think, to be able to sell it.
On Tuesday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam resoundly defeated Republican candidate Ed Gillespie to become the next governor of Virginia in a race that was largely viewed as a referendum on President Donald Trump. Right-wing media figures reacted to the election outcome by trying to distance Trump from Gillespie, arguing that Gillispie “didn’t embrace” the president’s agenda, labeling him as “the definition of the swamp” that Trump had promised to drain, and whitewashing his gravitation toward Trump’s extremism. Here’s a list of some of the excuses:
On her radio program, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham blamed “mass immigration” by Muslim and Latino Americans into Virginia for Republican losses throughout the state.
Fox’s Sandra Smith mentioned that Gillespie may have lost because he “didn’t fully embrace Trump,” saying, “There are questions this morning: had he [embraced Trump], would the outcome had been different?”
Right-wing troll Mike Cernovich claimed Gillespie lost partly because his campaign and the Republican Party didn’t ask for Cernovich’s advice.
Jack Posobiec suggested on Twitter that Gillespie’s ads weren’t extreme enough because he didn’t launch negative ads about sexual predators Harvey Weinstein and Anthony Weiner, or the anti-fascist group, Antifa.
Right-wing website The Daily Caller and far-right website The Gateway Pundit blamed Gillespie’s loss on the fact that the former RNC chairman “did not directly campaign with Trump.” The Gateway Pundit also blamed the “lying liberal media” for “GOP elite” Gillespie’s loss.
CNN contributor and Trump supporter David Urban speculated that Gillespie lost because Virginia voters “didn’t forget” that Gillespie didn’t “lift a finger” and come out in “full force” for Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign.
Breitbart Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow slammed Gillespie as “the definition of the swamp” and “a lobbyist” who campaigned with establishment Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) -- “the exact people the Trump voter base rejected.” He also claimed that the “non-stop hot takes about how this was a rejection of the Trump agenda” were “farcical.”
Breitbart’s Joel Pollak claimed “most of the blame” for Gillespie’s loss “sits with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY),” adding, “calling Tuesday’s results a repudiation of Trump,” is “more than a stretch."
Fake news website RedStateWatcher and conservative commentator Ann Coulter suggested that outgoing Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe restoring voting rights of convicted felons was the reason Gillespie lost to Northam as the ex-felons voted for the Democratic candidate.
Right-wing blog RedState speculated that Gillespie’s rejection of Bannon's assistance during the campaign helped “sink him.”
Coulter also seemed to blame Gillespie’s loss on undocumented Virginians illegally voting in the election, saying that if Gillespie’s “pals, George Bush & Haley Barbour, had been a little less enthusiastic about open borders,” he would have won. Coulter added that “what happened to [Virginia] will happen to the entire country” unless Trump builds his promised border wall and “deport[s] illegals.”
Correction: This post originally misidentified RedState as RedStateWatcher. We regret the error.
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Ed Gillespie: “My opponent is in favor of removing all historical Civil War monuments in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I think they should stay up.”
For days, Fox & Friends has been promoting a debunked story about a church in Alexandria, VA, supposedly removing a memorial plaque honoring George Washington, a parishioner of the church, because some find it “offensive.”
The October 29 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend and the October 30 and October 31 editions of Fox & Friends, which seem to have gotten the story from The Washington Times, featured deeply misleading segments questioning the decision of church leaders at Christ Church to remove a memorial plaque dedicated to the nation’s first president. Each segment largely glossed over the fact that Washington’s plaque is simply being moved because of its twin plaque commemorating Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who also attended the church and who has become the subject of intense debate regarding public commemorations to those who rebelled against the United States government in the cause of secession and white supremacy. According to a statement from the church, the plaques are being moved together because they represent a single installation that is out of place in “the worship space” of the building and will be “relocated to a place of respectful prominence” where they can be viewed in the full context of the church’s “long and many-faceted history.”
Fox’s knee-jerk attempt to politicize the church’s decision, and the network’s attempt to obfuscate the removal of a plaque commemorating Lee by hyping the removal of a twin plaque commemorating Washington, marks another step backward in the network’s increasingly outlandish defenses of monuments to the Confederacy. Fox & Friends’ attempts to capitalize on the network’s ginned-up controversy culminated in a softball October 31 interview with Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie, who used the issue to accuse Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam of seeking to erase Virginia's history. Gillespie has made defending Confederate monuments a core issue of his platform and has benefited from favorable coverage at Fox News and elsewhere in right-wing media. From the October 31 edition of Fox & Friends:
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Ed, where you're sitting right now, in Alexandria, that's the same city that we were talking about earlier today where at Christ Church, which is a church that George Washington himself attended, there is a plaque inside the vestibule that commemorates the fact that he was there. But they're taking it down because apparently it makes some people feel uncomfortable. What do you make of this? Because I know statues in Virginia -- another big topic this election cycle.
ED GILLESPIE: Well, obviously, I was disappointed by that, removing the plaque of George Washington at the church where he worshiped because people find it offensive. And that is another debate in this campaign. My opponent [Ralph Northam] is in favor of removing all historical Civil War monuments in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I think they should stay up. We should add historical context to them. And the fact is Virginia was front and center, obviously. Of course, we've been at the forefront of American history from the very founding here of Virginia and Virginians. Now, it doesn't mean we've always been on the right side. And in the Civil War, we were on the wrong side of history. But these statues around the commonwealth that commemorate those who served in the Civil War, I believe we should educate about them and teach about them. He wants to take them all down, and he made that an issue when he called for taking down and removing all of the statues. And when I disagree with that position, which, by the way, two-thirds of Virginians agree with me, you get attacked.
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An editorial from the Richmond Times-Dispatch criticized Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and the state Democratic Party for a new ad correctly linking Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie to racist groups.
Earlier this week, Northam’s campaign sent a mailer to Virginians linking Gillespie to the white nationalists who engaged in a violent protest in Charlottesville, VA, in August. The text on the ads urged voters to “stand up to hate.”
The Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial board criticized the mailer, writing that linking Gillespie to these groups is not just “a reach” but “it’s practically libel” and saying it requires voters to follow “absurd logic.” From the October 25 editorial:
Virginia Democrats seem intent on proving that two can play at that game. They have distributed a mailer of their own, seeking to tie Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie to the white nationalists who rampaged through Charlottesville in August.
That isn’t merely a reach. It’s practically libel.
Gillespie has repeatedly and passionately condemned white supremacists and other creatures that have crawled out from under the alt-right rock. Linking him to them requires the following absurd logic: (1) Donald Trump said some stupid things about Charlottesville. (2) Trump is a Republican. (3) Gillespie is a Republican. (4) Therefore, Gillespie supports racial hate.
Following another white supremacist rally in Charlottesville earlier this month, Gillespie waited 24 hours before responding with a tepid statement condemning the protests. But he happens to agree with these racists on one of their top demands -- keeping confederate monuments and statues in place. Gillespie also recently hired Jack Morgan, a former campaign staffer for President Donald Trump, whom The Washington Post editorial board characterized as “a blowhard who says America is headed for a civil war and that the movement to take down Confederate monuments is a communist plot to subvert the nation.”
Gillespie has been running a campaign centered on hate, so it’s only fair to link him to that message.
Breitbart politicized the death of a Muslim teenager in a seeming attempt to vindicate Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie after he released a number of ads falsely linking so-called sanctuary cities to the gang MS-13.
In a series of widely criticized campaign ads, Gillespie attacked his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, for allegedly “increasing the threat of MS-13” in Virginia by voting in favor of sanctuary policies. The ads are built on a number of falsehoods, including the myth that sanctuary cities embolden gangs like MS-13 and increase violent crime, even though law enforcement officials have said sanctuary policies facilitate their efforts to fight the gang.
In a seeming attempt to justify Gillespie’s anti-immigrant rhetoric -- which originated in right-wing media -- Breitbart published an article haphazardly linking the death of a Muslim teenager in Virginia to sanctuary cities. From the October 17 Breitbart article:
The Washington Post willingly ignored the illegal alien-status of a man who is accused of brutally murdering a Muslim teenager in Fairfax County, Virginia.
In a piece about the trial of Darwin Martinez Torres, a 22-year-old illegal alien from El Salvador, the Post did not mention the fact that when Torres was accused of murdering 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen, he was never supposed to have been in the United States.
Torres now has a detainer on him by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which demands he be turned over to federal immigration officials should he be released from local custody at any point.
Despite efforts by the mainstream media to label the murder a “hate crime” that was perpetrated by an anti-Muslim attacker, police have said there is no evidence indicating that the illegal alien targeted the teen because of her religion.
In the Virginia governor’s race, sanctuary cities, which protect criminal illegal aliens, has become a hot-button issue between populist conservative Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam.
This year, Northam was the deciding vote in supporting sanctuary cities, which have helped violent, El Salvadorian street gangs like MS-13, to proliferate across the state.
Gillespie, most recently, hit back at Northam’s support for illegal aliens and sanctuary cities by releasing a multitude of ad campaigns directly mentioning how the MS-13 gang poses a grave danger to Virginia residents.
Breitbart’s arbitrary mention of sanctuary cities is seemingly meant to imply that Hassanen’s tragic death was the result of sanctuary policy, even though Virginia technically does not have any sanctuary cities. Indeed, conservative media outlets’ crusade against sanctuary cities is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to smear undocumented immigrants as criminals and further an anti-immigrant agenda.
WAVY News 10’s fact check of Republican Ed Gillespie’s ads in the Virginia gubernatorial race correctly identified one factual inaccuracy but failed to note the anti-immigrant falsehoods the ad pushed as well. The advertisements, which President Donald Trump parroted in his endorsement of Gillespie, have been called out as “racist” and “fear-mongering.”
In an October 5 segment, reporter Andy Fox of Portsmouth, VA’s NBC affiliate WAVY News 10 fact-checked a series of advertisements Gillespie released attacking his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, over his support for sanctuary cities. Fox explained that while “Gillespie is correct that Northam voted for and supports sanctuary cities,” Northam’s nay vote on a bill, which was defeated, to outlaw sanctuary cities in Virginia “was not the deciding vote as stated in Gillespie’s ad.”
The bill Gillespie referenced, House Bill 2000, initially failed in the Virginia state Senate earlier this year thanks to what The Washington Post’s editorial board called an act of “political trickery” in which Senate Leader Tommy Norment voted with Democrats against the bill, thus forcing Northam to cast a tiebreaking vote. Republicans later called for a revote, and Norment switched his vote to support the measure. The bill was defeated nevertheless when the Virginia state House failed to muster the votes to override Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s veto.
While the fact check did correctly note that Northam’s vote “was not the deciding vote as stated in Gillespie’s ad,” Fox missed a few additional opportunities to fact-check Gillespie. Contrary to claims made in the ad, fewer crimes are committed in sanctuary areas compared to nonsanctuary municipalities. This is at least partly because, as NPR explained, witnesses and victims in sanctuary areas are more likely to aid police. Additionally, The Economist wrote that law enforcement found that sanctuary policies “allow [police departments] to fight MS-13,” a criminal gang that Gillespie brought up in his ad, “more effectively.”
Those aren’t the only problems with Gillespie’s ads. As the Post reported, the men meant to portray MS-13 member in the ads “were not MS-13 members and were photographed in a prison in El Salvador.” Additionally, as Washingtonian pointed out, “there technically aren’t any” sanctuary cities in Virginia, although, as ThinkProgress noted, “some areas of the state do have sanctuary city-like policies protecting immigrants from deportation.”
While Gillespie’s ad has been criticized for “fear-mongering” and being “super racist," it does seem to have at least one fan: President Donald Trump. Trump echoed the messages in Gillespie’s ad in an October 5 tweet announcing his support for the Republican, which was tweeted eleven minutes after the ad ran during Fox News programming:
Ralph Northam,who is running for Governor of Virginia,is fighting for the violent MS-13 killer gangs & sanctuary cities. Vote Ed Gillespie!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 6, 2017
Candidates in 2013 were asked about abortion. Moderators in 2017 must do the same.
In the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial election, Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie have faced off in two debates -- neither of which has included a question about their positions on abortion. On October 9, Northman and Gillespie will participate in a third debate, moderated by NBC affiliate WCYB anchor Paul Johnson and featuring reporter Carmen Forman as a panelist. Given Gillespie’s known extremism on abortion and reproductive rights, Johnson and Forman have a responsibility to ask both candidates about their views on the issue.
Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie released a series of anti-immigrant ads based on right-wing media myths in an attempt to link his Democratic opponent, current Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, to sanctuary city policies, which Gillespie falsely claims would cause more violent crime in Virginia. Gillespie’s ads, which also feature other misleading components, are now being promoted by right-wing media figures.
Republican nominee Ed Gillespie previously said he "would like to see abortion be banned"
On September 19, Virginia gubernatorial candidates Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie will meet for their second of three debates ahead of the November 7 election. As the race between these two candidates becomes tighter, debate moderators have a responsibility to ask Gillespie about his extreme position on abortion.
New polls show that the race between Gillespie and Northam has narrowed: One poll shows the candidates tied while another has Northam with a 5-point lead, but within the margin of error. Debates often serve as the first real encounters voters have with candidates, making the platform an essential opportunity for moderators to highlight the contrast between the candidates’ positions. Thus, moderators for the two remaining debates must ask questions that highlight the differences between Gillespie and Northam’s positions -- particularly Gillespie’s dangerous stance on abortion access.
Earlier this year, while at a forum for potential Republican gubernatorial nominees, Gillespie told the crowd, “I would like to see abortion be banned because I think it is a taking of an innocent human life.” Gillespie also expressed support for defunding Planned Parenthood and banning all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, despite the lack of a constitutional basis for such a policy. The anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List also supports Gillespie and plans to run digital ads for him before the election. In contrast, Northam has argued that abortion should remain a medical decision for the person seeking an abortion, earning him the support of Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
As the 2016 presidential debates showed, asking candidates about their positions on key issues such as abortion rights is essential. Last year, moderators failed to ask the presidential candidates about their stances on abortion until the final debate, at which point then-Republican nominee Donald Trump falsely claimed that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton supported letting abortion providers “take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day.”
At the Republican gubernatorial candidates forum, the moderator explicitly asked Gillespie about whether the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade -- exposing his extreme position that abortion should be banned. During the first gubernatorial debate, however, debate moderator Judy Woodruff, anchor of PBS NewsHour, did not ask the candidates a single question about abortion or reproductive rights.
Given Woodruff’s omission, NBC’s Chuck Todd, who will serve as the moderator for the second debate, must press Gillespie about his comments on abortion. Restrictions on abortion access largely happen at the state level, taking the form of unnecessary laws that delay and stop access to abortion. In Virginia, people seeking an abortion already must undergo mandatory counseling and then wait 24 hours to have the procedure. Gillespie’s desire "to see abortion be banned" is extreme, and it's up to moderators to hold him accountable while voters are watching.