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So much for one nation, indivisible.
A right-wing rally featuring former President Donald Trump and headlined by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon used an American flag from Trump’s infamous January 6 rally for the pledge of allegiance.
Martha Boneta, a Virginia GOP strategist who worked closely with top Trump advisers, kicked off the rally in suburban Richmond Wednesday night by having a woman bring out an American flag she said “was carried at the peaceful rally with Donald J. Trump on January 6.”
That January 6 rally wasn’t exactly peaceful. Trump whipped his crowd into a frenzy at the White House, and shortly afterwards a contingent of that crowd attacked the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to block Congress from certifying President Biden’s election victory. Hundreds of police were injured.
Boneta’s remark drew cheers from the pro-Trump crowd, who were then led in the pledge by Mark Lloyd, Trump’s 2016 Virginia campaign director who later served in the Trump administration as a “religious freedom advisor” to USAID.
The moment can be seen here:
The rally was held to boost turnout for Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin and the rest of the Virginia GOP ticket ahead of this November’s statewide elections.
Trump phoned in to the rally, praising Youngkin before repeating his lies that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
“Glenn Youngkin is a great gentleman. We won in 2016. We won in 2020—the most corrupt election in the history of our country, probably one of the most corrupt anywhere. But we’re gonna win it again,” Trump said.
Other speakers included Virginia Republican state Sen. Amanda Chase, who has campaigned hard for Youngkin since he beat her for the gubernatorial nomination earlier this year and has called the January 6 rioters “patriots,” and Arizona Republican state Rep. Mark Finchem, a QAnon-touting candidate Trump has endorsed for Arizona secretary of state.
Bannon has been subpoenaed by the House committee investigating the January 6 attacks on the Capitol, but he’s indicated he won’t comply, leading to possible legal charges.
Youngkin didn’t attend the rally, but he called in to John Fredericks’ radio show earlier this week to thank him for organizing it. Fredericks, Trump’s 2016 state campaign chairman, said Wednesday that Youngkin thanked him “profusely” for organizing the event and supplied campaign yard signs to hand out.
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Youngkin’s Democratic opponent, slammed him for the rally.
“Glenn Youngkin was endorsed again tonight by Donald Trump at a rally where attendees pledged allegiance to a flag flown at the deadly January 6th insurrection. Beyond disturbing, this is sick. And Glenn is honored to have Trump’s endorsement,” McAuliffe tweeted Wednesday night.
It’s unclear whether rally organizers knew about the plan to use the flag. Bannon didn’t respond to emailed questions about whether he knew a flag from January 6 would be used ahead of time.
Youngkin’s campaign indicated that he didn’t attend the Trump-Bannon rally because of a scheduling conflict but initially refused to respond to questions about the rally using a flag from January 6. On Thursday afternoon, Youngkin distanced himself from the event—and the moment.
“I wasn’t involved so I don’t know. But if that is the case then we shouldn’t pledge allegiance to that flag,” he told reporters when pushed on whether he supported the event. “There is no place for violence, none, none, in America today.”
Youngkin has tried to have it both ways with Trump in the Democratic-leaning state. He’s embraced Trump’s endorsement with a focus on energizing the GOP base and recently went on former Trump adviser Seb Gorka’s radio show to promise he was “Virginia first,” echoing Trump’s slogan. But Youngkin hasn’t had Trump on the campaign trail because of concerns about alienating moderate suburban voters.
It took Youngkin months to finally say that President Biden won the 2020 election fair and square, but he’s continued to push for additional vote audits so that everyone can “trust the process,” even though Virginia’s voting machines already undergo annual audits.
Polls have shown a close race in the Virginia election, set for Nov. 2.
This story was updated at 3:10pm to include Youngkin’s comments on Thursday.