Virginia Senate candidate Nick Freitas passed up multiple opportunities to condemn racism within his Republican Party. Now, he's on the receiving end of racist attacks from one of his Republican opponents.
A Republican Senate candidate who has previously downplayed his own party's racism is now on the receiving end of a bigoted attack from a fellow Republican.
Virginia House of Delegates member Nick Freitas is one of three Republicans running for the party's nomination to try to take out the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Tim Kaine — a challenge even Virginia's GOP admits is an uphill battle, with each of its candidates more radical and ridiculous than the next.
Freitas is now being forced to face that radicalism within his own party. Activists working for one of his rivals, Corey Stewart, have reportedly been posting racist memes about Freitas' last name.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that in one posting a comment said, "Freitas…… Sounds more like a item from Taco Bells dollar menu then a Senate candidate….#BBQFreitas." Another post questioned whether Freitas is a legal citizen.
During a recent debate, Freitas confronted Stewart about the attack.
"I fought for my country. I am every bit as much a citizen as you are, Corey Stewart, and I don’t appreciate it when my kids have to ask me that question in this country," he said.
Stewart has not disputed the authenticity of the postings. During the debate, he actually sounded proud of the vicious nature of the attacks on his primary opponent.
"I pledged to run a vicious and ruthless race against Tim Kaine in November. You know why? Because he’s going to run one against us," Stewart said.
Stewart described the racist attack on Freitas, which echoes Trump's birther smear of President Barack Obama, as simply "a little bit of fun" being made about Freitas' name.
Stewart ran an openly racist, and ultimately unsuccessful, primary campaign in last year's gubernatorial election. He regularly praised and defended Confederate statues and calling Robert E. Lee "a hero & an honorable man."
Stewart, who was born in Minnesota, infamously complained that "nothing is worse than a Yankee telling a Southerner that his monuments don't matter."
E.W. Jackson, the third candidate in the race and a perennial far-right candidate who promotes extremist conspiracy theories, "joked" that he didn't want to be involved in the discussion about racist attacks in the primary at all.
"Folks, if we’re already arguing about ethnicity — already — I’m glad I’m not involved in that," said Jackson, who is black.
Ironically, just over a month ago, Freitas was denying that the Republican Party has a problem with racism.
Freitas made a speech in the Virginia House on guns and laid the blame for gun violence on "broken homes," "the abortion industry," and "the welfare state." Three black delegates criticized him for using racial dog whistles in his speech.
Instead of apologizing, Freitas instead went on Fox News and accused his critics of being dishonest when they pointed out his racist language.
He said the black delegates were using their offense "as a weapon to turn away debate." Freitas also appeared on former Fox host Glenn Beck's The Blaze and complained the black delegates had used "weaponized offense" against him.
A year ago, Freitas also responded to Democrats who called out the racism being used by Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie.
"Dems demand we renounce racist groups their party created. We did 164 yrs ago by creating an abolitionist group the 'Republican Party,'" he tweeted.
Virginia voters rejected that racist campaign and elected Democrat Ralph Northam instead.
Freitas has repeatedly played down his own party's racism, instead of confronting it. Now he is the target of that same ignorance and bile. Perhaps that will finally be enough to convince him to try to stop it.