Gov. Youngkin, often wrongly portrayed in the media as a moderate Republican, may have been attempting to invoke the false yet viral far-right claim that Attorney General Merrick Garland was investigating and prosecuting parents for merely speaking at school board meetings. That claim came about after Garland issued a letter asking the Bureau to come up with strategies to address violence and violent threats directed at school board members. Some who have promoted that erroneous claim, including Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, have falsely claimed Garland called ordinary parents “terrorists.”
On Friday, Youngkin tweeted about the Trump indictment, saying, “These charges are unprecedented and it’s a sad day for our country, especially in light of what clearly appears to be a two-tiered justice system where some are selectively prosecuted, and others are not.”
“Parents in Virginia know firsthand what it’s like to be targeted by politically motivated actions,” he added.
“Regardless of your party, this undermines faith in our judicial system at exactly the time when we should be working to restore that trust,” Youngkin concluded, remarks that themselves could undermine faith in our judicial system.
Days before his election, Youngkin also promoted the false Garland claim, even after the Attorney General that same day explained to the Senate Judiciary Committee his letter directed the FBI to investigate not ordinary parents, but people who were organizing attacks on school board members.
Candidate Youngkin appeared on Fox News in October 0f 2021 (video below) and falsely told Tucker Carlson, “What happened today was, of course, Merrick Garland doubled down. He said, ‘No, I’m absolutely maintaining my position that the DOJ and the FBI should be investigating parents.’ Parents who are trying to stand up for their children when there’s been a sexual assault in a school bathroom. We have a board of education and in Loudoun County that tried to hide it from parents, hide it from hiding from the public, and they move this child into another school and then that child again committed another sexual assault.”
Youngkin made education and “parents’ rights” a campaign issue when he ran in 2021. His opponent, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, during a debate said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” While experts claim it didn’t swing the election for Youngkin, it at least established him nationally as focused on education and “parental rights,” a mantle Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis quickly co-opted.
The Washington Post, alternatively, on Friday focused on Youngkin’s “two-tiered justice” remarks, reporting: “Youngkin’s suggestion that a rich White man — he didn’t actually name Trump — had been victimized by a ‘two-tiered justice system’ drew fierce pushback, with many critics noting the governor’s opposition to the notion that racial and ethnic minorities face systemic racism. The Republican won the governorship on a promise to purge ‘critical race theory’ from K-12 classrooms, though it was not part of any curriculum. Once in office, Youngkin launched a tip line for parents to report on teachers discussing ‘inherently divisive’ concepts in schools.”
Youngkin, who technically is a “populist conservative” but swings far-right on social issues, was quickly chastised for his tweet.
“You know what you are staying is wrong and incendiary. Shame on you,” declared former CIA officer John Sipher. “These charges stemmed from a grand [jury] of Florida citizens. Trump will have access to a Fair process. But instead you spread information to anger and confuse people. You are stoking misinformation and violence.”
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes took a different approach, mocking the Virginia Republican.
“It’s the pivot to ‘Parents in Virginia…’ in the third sentence that elevates this to art,” he wrote.
“The moderate, genial suburban dad in a fleece vest suggests that the only way to restore confidence in the justice system is to place Trump above the law,” wrote The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, also mocking Youngkin.
“Youngkin is pro-Trump, as usual–even though Virginia voted heavily AGAINST Trump in both 2016 and 2020. When it comes to Donald Trump, Liz Cheney has more courage in her pinky than Youngkin does in his whole body,” observed Larry Sabato, the well-known professor of politics, political analyst, and founder and director of University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
The vice president of research for the liberal super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, Liz Charboneau, called Youngkin’s tweet an “especially stupid statement when a large portion of your state has a security clearance, handles classified documents, and has never been charged under the espionage act.”
Conservative Mona Charen, a syndicated columnist and Policy Editor at The Bulwark: “So here’s our answer as to whether Youngkin is a man of character. Fail.”
The Lincoln Project’s Michelle Kinney tweeted, “Youngkin twisting himself into pretzel to weave a vaguebook repudiation of Trump indictment and his weirdo anti vaxx anti trans ‘parents rights’ obsession into one tweet. It reads like Veep dialogue.”
Historian, professor, Holocaust expert Dr. Waitman Wade Beorn tweeted, “Hey dude, the Pentagon is literally in your state. Maybe stop in and have a chat…”