Virginia gubernatorial candidate Tom Perriello apologized Wednesday after video surfaced of the former Democratic congressman comparing President Donald Trump’s victory to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“The election of Donald Trump was a little bit like, you know, a political and constitutional September 11 for us, if I can be honest,” Perriello said in a video circulated on state conservative blog Bearing Drift and other right-leaning news outlets. Perriello made the remark Friday at a campaign event in Nelson County.
The nine-second video clip was uploaded to a YouTube account that appears to focus on opposition research against Democratic governors.
Perriello, who has said he was inspired to run largely to combat Trump, quickly apologized for the comment. Still, the analogy drew bipartisan condemnation from Republicans and Perriello’s Democratic primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam.
“Those are certainly not the words I would use, and I think the analogy is awful and offensive,” Northam said in a written statement from his campaign. “However, Donald Trump’s first month is proof his policies will hurt Virginia’s families. From the outrageous Muslim ban to his promise to defund Planned Parenthood and attacks on women’s reproductive rights, his administration has been nothing short of an unmitigated disaster.”
The two Democrats had largely avoided criticizing one another, but Northam’s response Wednesday is another signal the lieutenant governor is prepared to crank up the heat on Perriello.
Republican Party of Virginia Chairman John Whitbeck said Perriello’s comment shows “Democrats have become unhinged,” over Trump, and denunciations from GOP gubernatorial contenders came fast and furious.
“#DopeyTom is at it again. Always putting his foot in his mouth,” Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, said on Twitter.
“This statement could only be made by someone without any perspective grounded in loss and sacrifice for our great nation,” distillery owner Denver Riggleman said in a written statement.
“To compare democratically elected Donald Trump’s election to the mass murder of 3,000 Americans by terrorists is absurd,” said state Sen. Frank W. Wagner, R-Virginia Beach.
“Tom Perriello’s 9/11 comparison is offensive,” Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman and the front-runner in the GOP primary, said on Twitter. “His calculated outrage is becoming increasingly outrageous.”
“I apologized for my comment,” Perriello tweeted in response to Gillespie. “Still waiting on your apology for supporting Trump’s immoral and unconstitutional Muslim ban.”
Perriello, a Charlottesville native who represented the central 5th congressional District for one term before losing his first re-election bid in 2010, joined the Virginia governor’s race unexpectedly last month after working as a U.S. State Department diplomat under the Obama administration.
Perriello has pitched himself as a bold option for progressives who want to make Virginia a “firewall” against Trump.
Northam, a former state senator and pediatric surgeon backed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the Democratic establishment, is running as the steady hand while trying to establish anti-Trump bonafides.
Both parties will choose their nominees for governor in June 13 primaries.
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