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Youngkin under fire for invoking George Soros in school board debate

Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin came under fire this week after he accused allies of Democratic megadonor George Soros of planting political operatives on Virginia school boards, with some critics calling Youngkin's comments antisemitic. 

"It was just offensive," said Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D), who is Jewish and represents the district where Youngkin made the comment. "I was absolutely shocked and just could not believe that he would go there." 

Filler-Corn's comments followed remarks from Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), who is also Jewish. 

"I call it out in my own party and I'm calling it out now. Evoking George Soros as a shadowy funder is an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory," Luria said in a tweet on Wednesday. "This is an unacceptable statement from Glenn Youngkin." 

The Washington Post on Thursday highlighted Luria's criticism as well as concerns from the Jewish Democratic Council of America, in which the group told the Jewish website The Forward that Youngkin is "not disassociating himself from Republicans who use antisemitism as a political strategy. 

Youngkin made the comments during a rally in Burke, Va., on Tuesday, where he formally called for an investigation into the Loudoun County School Board amid fallout over the handling of two sexual assault cases that occurred in the county's school system this year. The Republican nominee and his supporters have been very critical of the Loudoun County School Board and others, accusing schools of pushing critical race theory in the classroom as well as sexually explicit content in learning material. 

"The blame for these wrongs and the present chaos in our schools lays squarely, squarely at the feet of 40-year politician Terry McAuliffe," Youngkin said. "But also at George Soros-backed allies. They've inserted political operatives into our school system disguised as school boards."

Youngkin's campaign spokesman Matt Wolking dismissed the claims of antisemitism from his critics as "ridiculous partisan nonsense." 

"Glenn Youngkin stated facts reported by The Washington Post, so by Elaine Luria's absurd standard, The Washington Post is anti-Semitic," Wolking said in a statement. "The millions of dollars that Soros gives to Virginia Democrats and PACs funds the efforts that elect school board members."

Youngkin's campaign pointed to a number of Jewish voices who have defended Youngkin's remarks, including conservative pundit Ben Shapiro, Caucus for America president Rabbi Aryeh Spero and Rabbi Yaakov Menken. 

"The charge by Terry McAuliffe's supporters that his opponent, Glenn Youngkin, is anti-Semitic because he criticized George Soros is preposterous," said Spero, who is a Republican. "Mr. Soros actively and openly engages in politics and in influencing state and local governments and is, therefore, a legitimate object of criticism, especially concerning the leftwing policies he's tried to force on America through his massive underwritings. Thus, this accusation is just another dishonest attempt to win an election by playing the 'anti-Semitism card.' It is specious chutzpah." 

Youngkin's campaign also pointed to campaign donations from Soros and his affiliated PACs to McAuliffe, Luria, a Loudoun County prosecutor and other Virginia Democrats. 

The accusations come as the governor's race between McAuliffe and Youngkin is neck and neck with less than two weeks until Election Day. 

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