Last weekend, white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. After the rally quickly turned violent and ended with three deaths and dozens of injuries, people from all over the country called for other Confederate memorials to be taken down.
Included in this group was Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, who said last week that he thinks the state’s Confederate statues should be “taken down and moved into museums.”
While some lauded Northam for his statement, it didn’t sit well with others, including some members of the Republican Party of Virginia. On Wednesday, according to The Washington Post, a two-part tweet went on up the party’s official Twitter account saying that, with his statement, Northam — whose ancestors owned slaves and fought in the Civil War — was turning his back “on his own family’s heritage.”
‘@RalphNortham has turned his back on his own family’s heritage in demanding monument removal. Shows @RalphNortham will do anything or say anything to try and be #VAGov – #Pathetic.’
The tweets were met almost instantly with a deluge of backlash, and they were deleted a few hours after being posted. Before the tweets were deleted, though, Northam had time to respond with a tweet of his own, and he said he feels “fine” about turning his back on white supremacy.
— Ralph Northam (@RalphNortham) August 23, 2017
After the tweets were removed, the party posted another tweet apologizing for the way they were “interpreted.”
‘Our previous tweets were interpreted in a way we never intended. We apologize and reiterate our denunciation of racism in all forms.’
John Findlay, executive director of the Virginia GOP, also said the party was not suggesting that Northam should stand with his ancestors as slave holders.
‘We said that Ralph Northam is turning his back on his heritage and family. It is because his great-grandfather fought for the side of the Confederacy and was wounded during the Civil War. When he wants to tear down monuments dedicated to those killed in action and wounded during the war, he is literally talking about a member of his own family.
‘A substantial majority of Virginians believe these monuments are not about hate but about history, and we likewise share that opinion.’
Northam’s gubernatorial opponent, Ed Gillespie has made it clear that he disagrees with Northam’s position on removing the statues. However, Gillespie’s spokesman said in an email to WaPo that the party was right to apologize and take the tweet down.
‘The RPV was right to apologize for the tweet and to take it down. Though Ed disagrees with the Lieutenant Governor on the issue of statues, he knows we can disagree on issues like this without devolving into divisive rhetoric.’
The tweets may have been deleted, but the damage they caused to Gillespie’s chances of winning the upcoming election cannot be. Many of those who commented on Northam’s response made it clear that they’re on his side and are happy to give him their votes.
Featured image via Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images.