Virginia gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart, a Republican, embraced the Confederate flag and Virginia’s history of defending slavery on Saturday, using multiple phrases that indicate his appeal to white supremacist voters.
Stewart championed Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and repeatedly emphasized Virginia’s “heritage.”
“It’s the state of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. That is our heritage. It is what makes us Virginia,” Stewart said, speaking at the “Old South Ball” in Danville, Virginia, in a video posted by Blue Virginia. “If you take that away, we lose our identity.”
Maintaining white identity has been a theme of white supremacist movements.
“Over time, white supremacist ideology evolved to reflect the new social and political reality,” writes the Anti-Defamation League in its primer on white supremacy.
“Essentially, many white supremacists changed their frame of reference from fighting to maintain white dominance to fighting to prevent white extinction.”
Stewart has aligned himself with the alt-right, a branch of the party tied to white nationalism.
In a Reddit forum earlier this month, he referred to his Republican primary adversary, Ed Gillespie, as a “cuckservative,” which Fox News notes “has been used by the so-called ‘alt-right’ movement to label any fellow Republican or conservative as someone who appears to disavow their conservative credentials, derived from the term “cuckold.”
ThinkProgress does not use the term alt-right, which was coined by the people it usually describes, who are white nationalists and white supremacists.
Stewart has already been in the news recently for his virulent opposition to plans in Charlottesville to take down a statue of Lee.
As governor, he said on Saturday, “Over my dead body… are we going to take down the statue of Robert E. Lee.” The Charlottesville city council voted earlier this year to remove the statue.
“I’m proud to be next to the Confederate flag,” Stewart said.
“That flag is not about racism, folks, it’s not about hatred, it’s not about slavery. It’s about our heritage. It’s time that we stop running away from our heritage. It’s time that we embrace our heritage, we embrace our history, and we take back Virginia.”
The reference to taking back Virginia could also be read as a dogwhistle to white supremacists, who have repeatedly used the expression “take back” America as a rationale for racist and xenophobic policies.
Two Virginia restaurants recently canceled Stewart campaign plans for an anti-immigration rally.
Stewart blamed the cancellations on “George Soros and his paid agitators.”
Stewart was formerly co-chair of the Trump presidential campaign in Virginia, before he was fired for participating in an anti-RNC rally in October.