Virginia Republican Corey A. Stewart likes to say that he embraces the controversy he has stirred by, among other things, pushing for the preservation of Confederate monuments, blaming illegal immigration for rising crime and comparing the city of Danville to a dystopian failure.
But earlier this week, Stewart, who is running to unseat Sen. Tim Kaine (D) in November, ordered the removal of a statement posted on his Twitter account calling a Muslim candidate for governor in Michigan “an ISIS commie.”
The tweet about progressive Democrat Abdul El-Sayed — a Rhodes scholar who is the son of Egyptian immigrants — came after he lost the Democratic nomination to Gretchen Whitmer in a primary election held Tuesday.
“Michigan almost elected a far left ISIS commie,” the tweet read, warning followers that if Kaine is reelected, a similar fate awaits Virginia. “This guy wants to abolish ICE and won 300,000 votes. Dangerous stuff. Don’t let wimpy @timkaine bring this dangerous stuff to VA.”
Stewart, who is chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, said Friday that the tweet was posted by a vendor that his campaign contracted to help build support through social media.
When he saw the tweet Tuesday, Stewart said, he had it deleted and ordered that the vendor be blocked from accessing the campaign Twitter account. Stewart said he is considering firing the vendor, which he declined to name, but is first investigating whether the message was sent by an employee without the knowledge of that person’s bosses.
The tweet, he said, was based on unconfirmed rumors that El-Sayed had received support from “extremists.” Stewart called the tweet unfair and that he doesn’t think the rumors are true.
“This really got under my skin because this is the same tactic that has been used against me, this guilt by association garbage that I’m not going to use against other people,” Stewart said, referring to past campaign troubles over his connections to people such as Paul Nehlen, a self-described “pro-white” candidate running in Wisconsin.
Stewart said even if El-Sayed received support from unsavory characters, that would not have justified the tweet. “Just because he has some extremist supporters doesn’t mean that he is an extremist,” Stewart said.
A spokesman for Kaine declined to comment.