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The Virginia Republican Party apologized for tweeting that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam “turned his back on his family’s heritage” after he said he was disturbed to learn that his ancestors owned slaves. Northam has also supported removing Confederate monuments and statues.
In the original Tweet, the party wrote, “@RalphNortham has turned his back on his own family’s heritage in demanding monument removal.” The second tweet read, “Shows @RalphNortham will do anything or say anything to try and be #VAGov – #Pathetic 2/2.”
Before the first tweet was deleted, Northam quickly responded. “I feel fine about turning my back on white supremacy. How does @EdWGillespie feel about the president’s position?” Northam wrote, calling out his Republican rival, Ed Gillespie.
“Our previous tweets were interpreted in a way we never intended. We apologize and reiterate our denunciation of racism in all forms,” the party tweeted.
Of course, the original tweet still exists thanks to screenshots.
Northam has called for Confederate monuments to be removed after the August 12 violence in Charlottesville, where white supremacists protested the planned removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.
In June, Northam also told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he recently learned that his ancestors on the Eastern Shore of Virginia owned slaves.
“The news that my ancestors owned slaves disturbs and saddens me, but the topic of slavery has always bothered me,” Northam told the Times-Dispatch. “My family’s complicated story is similar to Virginia’s complex history. We’re a progressive state, but we once had the largest number of slaves in the Union.”
Northam’s father, 92-year-old Wescott Northam, and late grandfather were both judges. However, all of earlier ancestors were farmers. Wescott Northam told the Times-Dispatch that he researched his family’s past and found documentation revealing that his great-grandfather owned slaves.
After the tweets, Virginia GOP Executive Director John Findlay told the Washington Post that they were referring to Northam’s family, since his great-grandfather fought in the Civil War for the Confederacy.
“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,’ Findlay told the Post. “A substantial majority of Virginians believe these monuments are not about hate but about history, and we likelwise share that opinion.”
The Post notes that a recent MassInc. poll showed that 51 percent of Virginians still want Confederate statues to remain on public land, while 28 percent want them removed.