Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said on Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s repeated refusal to condemn white supremacy has emboldened domestic hate groups to target Democratic leaders.
Northam told CNN’s John Berman during an interview that he would not “govern under a cloud of intimidation” after learning that the FBI had revealed on Tuesday that the Democratic governor had also been discussed as a possible target by members of an anti-government group charged last week with allegedly plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D).
“This is not about me. It’s not about the governor of Michigan. This is about this country. And it’s about a president that is emboldening… these white supremacists,” @GovernorVA Ralph Northam says about an alleged kidnapping plot targeting him along with Michigan Gov. Whitmer pic.twitter.com/s01PKDw1pR
— New Day (@NewDay) October 14, 2020
“This is not about me. It’s not about the governor of Michigan. This is about this country. And it’s about a president that is emboldening these individuals, these white supremacists,” Northam said.
During a hearing in federal district court in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Special Agent Richard J. Trask II of the F.B.I. said that the Virginia governor and other officials had been selected as targets due to their lockdown orders to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Northam is the second Democratic governor whose name has come up amid a foiled alleged plot by 13 men who have been charged with various state and federal crimes, including terrorism, conspiracy and weapons possession for a scheme to kidnap Whitmer. Authorities said that the group had also discussed possibly storming the Michigan State Capitol and starting a civil war.
Northam cited a failure by President Trump to condemn white supremacy during his first year in office, when in the aftermath of a torch-bearing white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017 he refused to disavow white supremacists.
“Our president said that these were fine individuals. There’s nothing fine about them,” Northam said on Wednesday.
The incident is often cited by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who has said Trump’s stoking of racial division and battlecry to incite white supremacists was the reason for his 2020 presidential bid.
Trump appeared to promote a kind of call-to-arms in both states directly when he tweeted in April that Michigan should be liberated, and made a similar call just days later in a tweet about Virginia, saying: “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”
Weeks before the alleged scheme to kidnap Whitmer made headlines, the President had declined to condemn white supremacy and even went a step further when he appeared to signal to a far-right hate group called the Proud Boys, when he asked them from the debate stage in Cleveland, Ohio to “stand back and stand by.” The Proud Boys responded gleefully to the President’s remarks and the group’s social media channels revealed a wave of new recruits.
“Words matter,” Northam said. “And these people take their marching orders from individuals like the President and it’s unfortunate and it needs to stop.”