A Twitter account belonging to a newly elected Republican leader in Virginia has been used to rebuke members of her own party with name-calling and slurs, describing one fundraiser as “evil” and dismissing Republicans who supported a tax increase as “despicable.”
Jo Thoburn’s election to the state party’s governing board this week occurred at a time when the Virginia GOP’s new chairman has promised to end the organization’s recent history of internal feuding.
But tweets from Thoburn’s Twitter page — some of them harsh and personal — opened a new round of sniping among party leaders.
“It indicates why Republicans have not been winning elections,” said former Virginia congressman Tom Davis, whose wife was among Thoburn’s targets. “It’s about adding to your coalition — not kicking people out.”
Thoburn, speaking by telephone Wednesday night, said she was unsure whether she authored the tweets, some of which were written two years ago.
“I could have, I don’t know if I did,” she said, explaining that her children, as well as employees for the school she runs, have access to her Twitter account. “I can’t confirm if I wrote them.”
By 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Thoburn’s Twitter account had been deleted.
The tweets from Thoburn’s account included one that attacked Planned Parenthood as “racist,” as well as another that described former Republican governor Robert F. McDonnell and his family as “amazingly greedy and stupid.”
“It is time to purge the RINO’s [Republicans in Name Only] — starting with the governor,” read a tweet from Thoburn’s account in April 2013, among a trove first publicized Wednesday by Blue Virginia, a liberal blog.
One tweet for which Thoburn claimed credit came after the state legislature enacted a tax increase in 2013 to pay for road improvements.
When the tweet was read to her during the interview, Thoburn laughed and said: “I know I wrote that one.”
Another tweet from her account that month offered an analysis of the Republicans running for lieutenant governor, using three words to describe Davis’s wife, Jeannemarie Davis, a former state delegate.
“She’s a slut,” read the tweet.
“E.W. Jackson — needs a glass of wine,” the tweet continued, referring to the preacher who became the party’s nominee on the ticket with gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli II.
Thoburn is president and chief executive of the Fairfax Christian School, which was founded by Robert L. Thoburn, a fundamentalist Presbyterian minister who served in Virginia’s House of Delegates from 1978 to 1980.
Robert Thoburn, who died in 2012, was Jo Thoburn’s father-in-law. His son, David, is also an administrator at the school.
Since 2004, Jo Thoburn has contributed about $35,000 to various Republican campaigns, including $2,600 to Barbara Comstock’s successful bid for Congress last year.
Thoburn this week was elected as chairwoman of the GOP’s 10th Congressional District, which Comstock now represents. Thoburn is replacing John Whitbeck, who last month was elected chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.
Whitbeck, who did not respond to a phone message, has said he hopes to end the infighting that has beset a GOP organization that has lost every statewide election since 2009. He congratulated Thoburn on her election in a tweet posted Tuesday.
Thoburn, in the telephone interview, said, “We absolutely need to unify” the state GOP. Describing herself as a Libertarian, she said, “I don’t fit in with any of the factions anyway.”
One tweet from her account chided prominent Northern Virginia Republican fundraiser Bobbie Kilberg for questioning Cuccinelli’s conservative social views as he sought the governorship in 2013.
“Is Bobbie Kilberg just plain evil?” the tweet read.
Another tweet targeted Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, whose crackdown on undocumented immigrants she opposed.
“A . . . B . . . C . . . Anybody but Corey,” read a tweet from May 2013, as Stewart was running for lieutenant governor.
Jeannemarie Davis, when told of the tweet that refers to her, said: “I don’t think anybody who would use that kind of crude language about another Republican has any business being the leader of any of our committees. Republicans deserve better than that.”
J. Garren Shipley, a spokesman for the state party, dismissed the importance of tweets from the account of a party official “who isn’t really consequential.”
“It looks like you guys are looking for a chance to knee-cap Republicans,” he said. “I’m going to send you a spreadsheet of bad tweets from Virginia Democrats, and I expect you to print those too.”
Linwood Cobb, a former GOP chairman in the 7th Congressional District, which former House majority leader Eric Cantor used to represent, said district chairmanships are among the “top party positions in the state, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat.”
“How do you grow the party when you have leaders making those kinds of comments?” he asked. “It makes it difficult to reach out to different groups and get them involved.”
The tweets from Thoburn’s account included attacks on government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, which “wants to control all property and your life through water regulations.”
One person singled out for praise was Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who is described as “the only hope for America.” At another point, a tweet from the account read: “Rand Paul attacks Eric Cantor . . . This is a good things [sic].”
Not all of the derision was aimed at Republicans. At one point, a tweet from the account lashed out at Terry McAuliffe (D), then a candidate for governor, for his support for abortion rights.
“McAuliffe,” the tweet said, “just wants to kill babies for sport.”