Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin is skipping one of the debates in his race against Democrat Terry McAuliffe, citing a moderator’s past donation to a charity associated with former President Bill Clinton and that debate organizers wouldn’t offer assurances that the economy would be a topic.
The debate, hosted by the Virginia Bar Association (VBA), was scheduled for July 24 and would have been the first debate of the campaign.
“Unfortunately, the VBA refused to dedicate a portion of the debate to a discussion on Virginia’s economy and jobs, which proved to be an insurmountable barrier in our negotiations,” Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter said Monday afternoon. “It would also be a conflict of interest to have former Clinton Foundation board member Terry McAuliffe being ‘questioned’ by a Clinton Foundation donor.”
In this May 11, 2021, file photo, Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin speaks during an event in Richmond, Va. Youngkin said he will not participate in a debate hosted by the Virgnia Bar Association this month. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)
The VBA said in a subsequent statement Monday that it decided “to remove the gubernatorial debate from the 2021 VBA Summer Meeting programming” because “we were not able to get commitments for a debate that included all of the major candidates.”
The “Clinton Foundation donor” in question was Judy Woodruff, a PBS broadcaster who in 2010 gave $250 to the Clinton Foundation’s “Clinton Bush Haiti Fund,” as reported by Politico. The fund was a joint fundraiser with former President George W. Bush to provide relief to victims of the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck the island that year.
The VBA previously told Fox News that Republican candidates have participated in debates moderated by Woodruff in the past, including Corey Steward in 2018, Ed Gillespie in 2017 and 2014, and Ken Cuccinelli in 2013.
Youngkin’s decision to pull out of the VBA debate does not mean there won’t be any debates ahead of the Nov. 2 election. The parties have already agreed to an Appalachian School of Law debate. And multiple other organizations are offering to host potential debates.
McAuliffe, meanwhile, said Youngkin’s decision to avoid the VBA debate is “pathetic.”
“Pathetic that @GlennYoungkin doesn’t have the courage to meet me on stage at the VBA debate next week,” he tweeted. “After a rough month for his campaign, he’s more desperate than ever to hide his right-wing views because he knows how out of step they are with VA. Can’t hide forever Glenn!”
Fox News’ Houston Keene contributed to this report.