Youngkin says he regrets his campaign’s tweet attacking teen

Sarah Rankin
Associated Press

Richmond, Va. – Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said Monday that he regrets what he called an “unauthorized” tweet sent from his campaign account over the weekend that attacked a high school student and invoked a scandal previous Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam faced.

“On Saturday night, an unauthorized tweet came from a campaign account. I regret that this happened and it shouldn’t have,” Youngkin tweeted Monday. “I have addressed it with my team.”

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks during a news conference on Thursday Jan. 27, 2022, in Richmond, Va.

Saturday’s tweet was directed at Ethan Lynne, a 17-year-old student involved in Democratic politics. Lynne tweeted about recent news articles that raised questions about the Youngkin administration’s plans for an initiative highlighting the history of enslaved people who labored in the Executive Mansion.

“Team Youngkin,” the governor’s official campaign account, responded by posting a photo of Lynne with Gov. Ralph Northam, along with a racist photo that appeared in Northam’s medical school yearbook and surfaced in 2019.

“Here’s a picture of Ethan with a man that had a Blackface/KKK photo in his yearbook,” the campaign tweeted.

The post, which was later deleted, drew widespread attention online and condemnation from Democrats.

A spokesperson for Youngkin didn’t respond to questions from news outlets over the weekend.

When Youngkin weighed in Monday morning through his governor’s office account, he also said: “We must continue to work to bring Virginians together. There is so much more that unites us than divides us.”

Lynne tweeted that Youngkin, in his “regret” tweet, didn’t apologize or condemn what happened.

“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,” he tweeted.

Lynne said at a news conference with his mother Monday afternoon that he had been mocked and harassed online because of the campaign’s post.

He also said he’d seen questions raised about why Youngkin’s campaign account was still active, given that Virginia governors are prohibited from serving consecutive terms.

The rhetoric from the campaign account was not in line with Youngkin’s promises to serve as a unifier and rise above partisan division. Nor did it conform with his previous warm public remarks about Northam, who left office in January.

Matt Wolking, a consultant at the firm that ran Youngkin’s campaign, told news outlets over the weekend that the tweet was deleted after it became clear Lynne was a minor. He didn’t say who wrote the tweet.

The exchange came after Lynne, who has nearly 40,000 followers, tweeted about a Richmond radio station’s reports on the Executive Mansion project. An archeologist on the project, which aims to tell the stories of enslaved workers, told VPM last week that she believed an educational space in the mansion had been turned into a family room. A correction was later issued after the governor’s press secretary said that assertion was incorrect and that nothing in the space had been moved by the Youngkin administration.