Lincoln Project co-founder: Stunt at Youngkin event 'recklessly stupid'

Steve Schmidt, the co-founder of the anti-Trump group The Lincoln Project, slammed the recent tiki torch stunt pulled by the organization ahead of the Virginia gubernatorial election, calling it “recklessly stupid.”

“I thought the action was recklessly stupid. It was dishonest and cheap. It is exactly the wrong way to approach the fight against a real fascist movement, against extremist elements. It showed appalling judgment by the day-to-day management and leadership of The Lincoln Project,” Schmidt said on Wednesday during an interview on “America at a Crossroads.”

In late October, The Lincoln Project organized a group of people to hold tiki torches while then-Republican candidate Glenn YoungkinGlenn YoungkinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat Psaki claps back at Youngkin over school mask mandates Why our parties can't govern MORE was campaigning in Charlottesville, Va. Photos of the political stunt showed a group of men standing next to a Youngkin campaign bus wearing white shirts and khaki pants and holding tiki torches.

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“Someone could have gotten beaten up, could have gotten hurt, could have incited violence, there are 100 bad things that can happen,” Schmidt said.  

Schmidt resigned from the Lincoln Project's board in February as the group faced scrutiny over its handling of harassment allegations against another founder. Schmidt remains involved with the organization but denied any part in last month's fake protest in Virginia.

The Hill has reached out to The Lincoln Project for comment.

The anti-Trump organization said in a statement the next day that it staged the stunt because Youngkin had failed to condemn the deadly white nationalist rally held in Charlottesville in 2017.

“Today’s demonstration was our way of reminding Virginians what happened in Charlottesville four years ago, the Republican Party’s embrace of those values, and Glenn Youngkin’s failure to condemn it,” The Lincoln Project said in a statement.

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“If he will denounce Trump’s assertion that the Charlottesville rioters possessed ‘very fine’ qualities, we’ll withdraw the tiki torches,” the group continued. “Until then, we’ll be back.”

However, the act was immediately condemned by the city of Charlottesville and former Gov. Terry McAuliffeTerry McAuliffePsaki claps back at Youngkin over school mask mandates Youngkin inaugurated as first GOP Virginia governor in over a decade Centrist Democrats urge progressives to tamp down rhetoric MORE, the Democratic candidate.

“You seem to regard ‘Charlottesville’ as nothing more than a political meme, and parading mock white supremacists around our city as nothing more than political cosplay," the vice mayor and three city councilors from Charlottesville wrote in letter addressed to Schmidt.

"You clearly do not understand the extent to which your ‘prank’ inflicted real emotional pain on innocent people here in Charlottesville,” they added.