Virginia Gov. Youngkin endorses anti-LGBTQ House nominee who calls COVID a 'cover-up'


Leon Benjamin has said COVID-19 vaccines contain 'satanic' properties and the pandemic was manufactured by 'elites' to create a 'new world order.'

Leon Benjamin, the Republican nominee in this month's special election in Virginia's 4th Congressional District, who has attacked the LGBTQ community and spread false conspiracy theories about COVID-19, announced on Tuesday that he had been endorsed by Virginia GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

"Endorsement Alert. Governor Glenn Youngkin is Team Leon all the way!" Benjamin tweeted.

Benjamin is running against Democratic nominee Jennifer McClellan, who if she won would make history as the first Black woman to represent Virginia in Congress. The 4th Congressional District seat became vacant when Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin died of cancer on Nov. 28, 2022, shortly after he had been reelected to a fourth term.

Benjamin, a pastor at New Life Harvest Church in Richmond, has a long history of bigoted and conspiratorial comments.

In a 2011 Facebook post, he compared LGBTQ individuals to drug addicts and alcoholics.

In 2017, he announced a program at his church: "Amen, we have developed a ministry called Escape Hall (Escape from Homosexual and Lesbian Living). Now that we have Transgenders, that is just another form of homosexuality or lesbianism as its roots. It's time for the Church to be the place of deliverance for any who would desire a change and to enter into the Kingdom of God."

In 2022, he spoke at an event hosted by far-right businessman Clay Clark about so-called conversion therapy, a debunked pseudoscientific program its adherents claim can change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says: "Based on the scientific evidence, the AACAP asserts that such 'conversion therapies' (or other interventions imposed with the intent of promoting a particular sexual orientation and/or gender as a preferred outcome) lack scientific credibility and clinical utility. Additionally, there is evidence that such interventions are harmful. As a result, 'conversion therapies' should not be part of any behavioral health treatment of children and adolescents."

Video posted by Media Matters for America shows Benjamin telling the audience: "Glory be to God. This is an altar call. You're gonna get delivered. You're gonna get healed. I don't care if it's homosexuality, fornication, adultery, lesbianism. God says he's gonna touch you today. You gonna get this out of your spirit. You gonna get it out of your life. And God's gonna renew your mind, and you're gonna be transformed."

Benjamin said:

I been having a ministry for homosexuals for the last 12 years. They're coming out. Don't you dare feel guilty — come on! The devil lied to you and I! He told you that you can change your sex, but he is a liar! … You got to come out of homosexuality! You got to come out of adultery! You got to come out of fornication! … You gotta come out of this illegal president! He was never elected! Come out, America! … I don't care how long you've been a homosexual. I don't care how long you've been a lesbian. The weight of the Holy Ghost is more powerful than any demon.

Benjamin has also spread COVID-19 misinformation.

In September 2022, he said COVID-19 "was a cover-up for the actual agenda, which was to take over our nation through tyranny and set up a whole, what we say, a global reset, a new world order. A new form of government that they are hoping through oppression and depression that the people will say, We have no other choice."

He also spread the false conspiracy theory that COVID-19 vaccines are actually called "Luciferase."

"The ingredients inside the vaccine, SM-102, luciferase. Go to, you'll see it: luciferase. That — it's a patent. And guess what the patent is? 060606," Benjamin said on B-Alert News.

He went on to falsely claim that swabs used in COVID-19 PCR put "graphite" into your body "that can form its own system — wiring system inside you that is controlled by 5G."

It's unclear why Youngkin would endorse Benjamin, who has virtually no chance of winning the special election in the heavily Democratic district, which President Joe Biden carried by more than 35 points in 2020.

In fact, Benjamin has lost this seat twice before, in both 2020 and 2022. In 2022, Benjamin lost to McEachin by 29 points; in 2020, he lost to him by 23 points.

Youngkin endorsed Benjamin in his failed 2022 bid, and appeared at a campaign event with him days before the election.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.