A GOP Senate nominee had the audience in splits when he claimed that President Donald Trump was “standing up to Russians” in a debate against incumbent Virginia senator Tim Kaine, reports The Hill.
Corey Stewart, the controversial chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, was responding to Tim Kaine’s reminiscences of former President Barack Obama taking Russians to task for their hostile acts, such as when Putin invaded Crimea, or when he ordered the shooting down of an aircraft flying over Ukraine.. The GOP Senate nominee claimed that Obama hadn’t acted bravely at the time, and it was in fact Donald Trump who was standing up to Russians, provoking much mirth among members of the audience.
“We have a president who is standing up to the Russians,” Stewart said, eliciting laughter from Kaine as well as the audience.
Left red-faced, it took Stewart a few moments to try and steer away from his drastic claims, but it was already too late. The moment etched itself as the highlight of his debate with Tim Kaine, and Stewart could expect it to be replayed again and again much to his anguish, but very much to the liking of his incumbent opponent.
Videos of the debate have since been uploaded on social media, where the GOP Senate nominee has been subject to widespread ridicule amid accusations of hero-worshipping the American president.
Donald Trump has been the subject of fierce backlash since his one-on-one Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, following which he failed to denounce the Russian state for interfering in the 2016 presidential elections — a conclusion reached by U.S. intelligence agencies. In a rare concession, Trump backed out later, claiming that he “misspoke” at the press conference, and accepted that Russia had meddled in the country’s domestic issues. This was in part because of bipartisan backlash, with GOP senators, as well as own band of advisers, including John Kelly and John Bolton, admonishing him for his Russian affinity.
Nevertheless, it didn’t prevent Trump from announcing that his White House was working on a plan to invite Vladimir Putin to Washington this autumn — something which has again not sat well with either his critics or many of his allies. But Stewart, who has been a loyal Trump supporter since 2016, didn’t denounce the move, instead agreeing with Trump’s maligned claims of “no president ever [being] as tough as I have been on Russia.”
As of now, polls show that Stewart trails Kaine by 18 points in the Senate race, and after his recent antics, that gap may expand further.