Youngkin tries to claim opponent doesn't care about people with disabilities

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The Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee has ties to a company that paid workers with disabilities less than minimum wage — one as low as 11 cents an hour.

Republicans are accusing Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe of not caring about Virginians with disabilities after he left a virtual forum with some of them after 30 minutes.

Citing a report on the right-wing website Breitbart, the state Republican Party demanded on Friday that McAuliffe — the Democratic nominee in this November's gubernatorial election — apologize for having "ducked out of a Zoom forum with the Virginia disabled community" to attend a fundraising event in Nevada the night before.

"Terry McAuliffe must immediately apologize to Virginia’s disabled community for his disgraceful and disrespectful behavior yesterday, when he deserted The Arc of Northern Virginia Candidate Forum and members of the disabled community," complained party chair Rich Anderson.

Anderson then claimed that Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin "will respect all Virginians and unite them around a vision for the future where Virginia is the best place to live, work, and raise a family."

Youngkin, a wealthy ex-investment firm executive running with the backing of former President Donald Trump, joined in the criticism, telling Fox News on Monday that McAuliffe was prioritizing campaign cash over people by leaving the event midway through.

"He seems more concerned about laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign than caring for Virginians," Youngkin claimed.

Fox News itself noted that according to a spokesperson for The Arc of Virginia, the nonprofit organization that hosted the candidate forum, McAuliffe's early departure was announced at the beginning of the event, and the former governor "was able to give his full introductory remarks and answer the first of two questions addressed solely to the gubernatorial candidates before leaving about 30 minutes into the event for a prior commitment as planned."

The 90-minute long event also included a forum for lieutenant governor nominees and attorney general candidates.

The Arc spokesperson also stated that McAuliffe had participated in their previous candidate forum during the Democratic primary.

The Virginia GOP press release on Friday also cited comments from Arthur "Lee" Talley, a person identified only as "a Virginia father," who lamented, "As an advocate for both my son and Virginia's disabled community, I was horrified that Terry McAuliffe would leave us high and dry" by leaving the event early.

"That decision was disrespectful, reprehensible, and shows bad judgment not at all fitting of someone who wants to be governor," Talley said.

The press release neglected to mention that Talley is a self-described "proud Republican activist," who served in former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell's administration, chaired the Republican committee for his state senatorial district, and was party chair for Virginia's 3rd Congressional District Committee previously.

Youngkin's own record on disability rights has come under fire during this campaign.

In July, the American Independent Foundation reported that a now-defunct Nebraska company owned by the Carlyle Group — the investment firm that Youngkin once ran — exploited a minimum wage loophole to pay employees with disabilities less than the minimum wage. At least one employee was paid just 11 cents an hour by the firm.

Youngkin was a high-ranking Carlyle Group executive at the time and promised voters in February that he would completely stand by his corporate record. "I will own everything that happened at Carlyle, because I was there," he vowed. "I will never walk away from anything I did in my business career."

When asked about the sub-minimum wage payments in July, a campaign spokesperson suggested that they were McAuliffe's fault based on his history of putting some of his own money into Carlyle Group-managed investment funds.

"Ask Terry McAuliffe, who invested in and directly profited from this," they said at the time.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.