Although Corey Stewart was ousted as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman in Virginia this fall, he’s still anchoring his gubernatorial campaign to the GOP president-elect.
In the wake of Trump’s victory, the chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors took aim at Ed Gillespie who, like Stewart, is seeking the Republican nomination for governor.
“Ed Gillespie treated Donald Trump like he had typhoid,” Stewart said in a post-election interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “He would not appear with him on stage. He would not mention his name unless he was condemning him.”
The record on the first part of Stewart’s statement – that Gillespie would not appear with Trump – doesn’t lend itself to a fact-check because it requires us to get into Gillespie’s head. Gillespie never did appear on stage with Trump in Virginia, but there’s no evidence he refused to do so. Gillespie’s campaign says he was never invited by Trump’s camp and we’ve found no information to contradict that.
So we’ll fact check the second part of Stewart’s statement – that Gillespie only mentioned Trump’s name when he was “condemning him.”
When we reached out to Stewart, he repeated that Gillespie kept Trump at an arm’s length and “never mentioned Trump” in a positive light. Stewart said that early in the campaign, Gillespie simply made a generic vow to support the GOP nominee.
The only time Gillespie mentioned Trump by name, Stewart said, was to take the him to task following a release of a 2005 Access Hollywood tape in which Trump made vulgar comments about groping women.
Gillespie did criticize Trump for that, calling the candidate’s comments “incredibly offensive and demeaning.”
But contrary to Stewart’s statement, there were a few times when Gillespie did mention Trump’s name – tepidly – while voicing support for the GOP ticket. Matt Moran, Gillespie’s campaign spokesman, pointed out those occasions.
•A May 4 article in The Washington Post that noted Gillespie issued a one-sentence, prepared statement of support for Trump. The statement said, “Republican voters have nominated Donald Trump for president, and I will vote for him against Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in an election that will not only affect control of the White House but the U.S. Supreme Court for a generation or more.”
•A May podcast interview with Bearing Drift, a conservative blog. Gillespie said, “It’s very important that we help Donald Trump carry the commonwealth against Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders because we play a critically important role in the Electoral College.”
•An Aug. 23 interview with the Loudoun Times that was recorded by Gillespie’s campaign. “I’m voting for Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton,” Gillespie said. “That is our choice in this election. It’s not just about the control of the executive branch for the next four years, but control of the judiciary for the next 30 years.”
No doubt, Gillespie’s actions on Trump will be an issue in next year’s GOP primary for governor. Stewart isn’t the only Trump supporter accusing Gillespie of shunning the president-elect this fall. John Fredericks, who served as chairman of Trump’s campaign during the final month after Stewart was ousted, also said that Gillespie kept Trump at arm’s length.
“This was a cold, calculating political decision that he made that he’ll have to live with now,” John Fredericks said of Gillespie. Fredericks became chairman of Trump’s Virginia campaign in October, after Stewart was fired for making unauthorized comments.
But Fredericks also acknowledged that he never asked Gillespie to appear with Trump and, therefore, can’t say definitively if Gillespie “would not” do so.
Fredericks told us that that Gillespie did attend two rallies held by Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. They were held in Harrisonburg on Oct. 5 and at George Mason University on Nov. 5. At the latter event, Fredericks said he introduced Gillespie, who never mentioned Trump in his speech.
While Gillespie is taking hits from Republicans for distancing himself from Trump, the state Democratic Party is trying to tie him to the president-elect. The Democrats started a “Trump for Virginia governor” website that claims Gillespie, Stewart and other GOP gubernatorial candidates are “YUUGE Trump supporters.”
Finally, we should finally note that Stewart was fired as the Trump campaign’s Virginia chairman on Oct.10 after joining a rally in front of the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington where he accused GOP “establishment pukes” of failing to sufficiently support for Trump’s campaign.
Stewart said Gillespie “would not mention” Trump’s name “unless he was condemning him.”
Gillespie certainly did not praise Trump, and he did criticize the presidential nominee for making a vulgar statement about women.
But there are several instances where Gillespie mentioned Trump while voicing support of the GOP ticket, saying it was important to keep conservative control of the U.S. Supreme Court.
So we rate Stewart’s statement False.
Read the full article from Politifact Virginia.