RICHMOND — Corey Stewart, the Republican running for Virginia governor as a defender of Confederate flags and monuments, got into a Twitter fight this week with - among others - musician John Legend, crime novelist Laura Lippman and David Simon, creator of the HBO series “The Wire”.
Along the way, Stewart added fuel to the Internet sparring by seeming to defend an apparent anti-Semite.
Stewart kicked off the fracas on Monday, when he criticized the removal of The Battle of Liberty Place monument in New Orleans, which honored members of the Crescent City White League who died trying to overthrow the city’s government after the Civil War. It was the first of four statues linked to the Confederacy that are set to be torn down in New Orleans.
Stewart’s comments prompted blowback from musician John Legend and many of his 9.2 million Twitter followers. Among those who chimed in was Lippman, who was born in Atlanta and raised in Baltimore.
“Darlin’ I’m a Southerner and happy to explain why those monuments are [messed] up,” Lippman wrote.
Someone tweeting as “Fashy Frog” shot back to Lippman: “Are you a Jew?”
Eventually Lippman’s husband, “Wire” creator Simon, jumped in with: “Are you a s---head? Sounds like it.”
And that’s where Stewart popped up again in the thread with this: “Just like a liberal: no argument, so attack the man.”
In an interview Thursday, Stewart said he was not defending Fashy Frog, but himself and that he was not supporting anti-Semitism.
“We don’t even know who that is,” he said, referring to Fashy Frog, whose Twitter handle incorporates an image of Pepe the Frog, a cartoon appropriated by some members of the alt-right movement.
Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, is in a three-way primary for the GOP gubernatorial nomination with former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie and state Sen. Frank Wagner (Virginia Beach).
Trailing Gillespie in fundraising and endorsements, Stewart has sought to draw attention to his bid by defying “political correctness” as Donald Trump did in his unconventional campaign for president. Stewart, who was chairman for Trump’s Virginia campaign until his ouster toward the end, has made the preservation of Virginia’s Civil War monuments his rallying cry.
He has held rallies against the Charlottesville City Council’s decision to remove a Robert E. Lee monument, embraced the Confederate flag at multiple events and attended an Old South Ball in an outfit approximating a Confederate dress uniform.
In the Twitter war that raged Monday and Tuesday, many critics of Stewart noted that his defense of Southern heritage was disingenuous, given his roots as a native of Minnesota.
“Congratulations!” tweeted broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien. “Do tell, when did you move to the great state of Virginia, sir?”
Stewart was back at it on Thursday, tweeting “We must protect Virginia heritage from #HistoricalVandalism.”