A congressional candidate in Virginia is getting strong criticism after a video circulated showing one of his supporters calling racial minorities "the devil" and saying LGBTQ+ people will take others' rights away.
The video has become an issue in the Republican primary race in the state's Fifth Congressional District. Incumbent Denver Riggleman, who's in his first term, is being challenged by Bob Good, a former Liberty University administrator who has portrayed Riggleman as insufficiently conservative.
In the video, which was made in 2017 but has recently resurfaced on social media, former Greene County, Va., Supervisor Eddie Deane objected to a Black Lives Matter protest that closed down a lane of a local highway. The protest had a permit.
"You had a black man in the president for eight years and you're crying foul, or white supremacy? You give the devil an inch, and he'll be your ruler. These minorities will not be satisfied," Deane said in the video, first reported by Charlottesville, Va.'s CBS affiliate.
Deane, who has been a campaign surrogate for Good, also condemned LGBTQ+ people in the video. "They're a bunch of queers, and that's the word I used years ago, that's what I use now," he said. "They're strange people, and they want your rights and you cannot appease them."
Contacted by the station, Deane said, "What was said has been taken out of context, and it's not racially intended at all."
That statement didn't fly with a lot of people, including Alex Pisciarino; he and his husband, Anthony LeCounte, were married in a ceremony officiated by Riggleman last summer. "How can you take 'the minorities,' 'the queers,' out of context?" Pisciarino told the Charlottesville station. "Even in context, you shouldn't use language like that, and you shouldn't reduce whole groups of people to these characterizations anyway."
Riggleman has called on Good to denounce Deane's video, but Good has not commented so far.
Good has been chief fundraiser for athletics at Liberty University, the fundamentalist Christian school in Lynchburg, Va., founded by the late Jerry Falwell and now run by his son Jerry Falwell Jr., a major supporter of Donald Trump. In challenging Riggleman (who has received Falwell Jr.'s endorsement) for the congressional seat, Good has said the incumbent is not conservative enough.
"I am eager to get to Washington to further President Trump's America-first agenda, and give him one more reliable Republican who will consistently have his back, regardless of whether or not it is an election year!" Good wrote in a Facebook post Friday. He included screen shots of posts from 2016 in which Riggleman said he'd write himself in for president and Good said he'd vote for Trump.
Riggleman himself is solidly conservative; in addition to Falwell Jr., he's received the endorsements of Trump and such far-right congressional colleagues as Andy Biggs and Jim Jordan, who like him are members of the House Freedom Caucus, The Hill reports. Good has the endorsement of Falwell Jr.'s brother, Jonathan Falwell, the pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg.
There's been backlash to the fact that Riggleman officiated a same-sex wedding. At the time of the wedding, he told The Washington Post, "My real belief is that government shouldn't be involved in marriage at all, but if it is, everybody has to be treated equally before the law. And that is part of our Republican creed. And it also comes down to love is love. I'm happy to join two people together who obviously love each other." But his other actions on LGBTQ+ rights are not so supportive; he did not vote for the Equality Act, nor for a resolution condemning Trump's transgender military ban.
Riggleman is considered vulnerable to a Democratic challenge. Four Democrats are seeking the Democratic nomination in the Fifth District, which stretches down the middle of Virginia from its northern border to its southern one; it includes Charlottesville, which saw a violent white supremacist demonstration in 2017. Good is Riggleman's only challenger in the Republican primary. Both parties will choose their nominees this month.
Riggleman said that if Good doesn't denounce Deane's video, he should withdraw from the race. "Racism and bigotry have no place in the Republican Party or any political party," he told The Hill, adding, "I condemn these remarks and call on my opponent to condemn these vile comments. If my opponent will not condemn this video, he is not a serious candidate for any office."