CNN guests on Friday night came out in defense of the "tiki torch" stunt, saying that Democrats "have to play hardball" if the party wants to win elections, ahead of the upcoming Virginia gubernatorial race set to take place on Nov. 2.
CNN's Chris Cuomo was hosting James Carville, a strategist currently working for the Democratic Party, and Lincoln Project advisor Stuart Stevens, a former Republican strategist who worked for the Mitt Romney presidential campaign.
Carville defended the Lincoln Project's purported attempt to tie Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin running for Virginia governor to the 2017 white nationalist march in Charlottesville, in an appearance Friday with Stevens.
Stevens called the theatrical demonstration that unfolded on Friday an example of playing "hardball" to win elections, adding that "the question here is not about some guys who showed up at a rally, it's why hasn't Glenn Youngkin denounced Donald Trump for saying that there are good people on both sides?"
"Talking tacticts," Carville said that he agreed with Stevens, saying on-air that the political stunt Friday "was to illustrate a point that Youngkin has not denounced Trump saying there were 'fine people on both sides' in Charlottesville."
"It's a very important election. It would be bad, bad to lose any election," Carville said of the looming Virginia gubernatorial race. "I'm very worried. I'm very concerned. Every Democrat should be making phone calls to Virginia, getting people to go out and vote. It's gonna be a very tight election."
A new poll found on Thursday evening that Youngkin has pulled ahead, with a majority of Virginian parents saying they support the GOP candidate over his Democrat counterpart. In a Fox News poll, 56 percent of likely voters who identified as parents responded that they would vote for Youngkin if the election were to be held that day. 42 percent stated that they would vote for McAuliffe.
Cuomo then turned to Stevens, noting how five individuals dressed like Charlottesville protesters had posed for pictures outside Youngkin's campaign bus while holding tiki torches. McAuliffe's campaign staff condemned the actions, despite spreading the hoax themselves on social media throughout the day.
"You're getting crushed by people on the right [claiming that] it's a dirty tactic. Do you stand behind what was done, and is that being what you guys say you oppose?" Cuomo asked Stevens. To which, the Lincoln Project associate answered, "No."
"Listen, every day, I hear people pleading with the Lincoln Project to show Democrats how to win, how to play hardball. You know, this is an example." Stevens declared, before launching into his attack on Youngkin and Trump.
"Today's demonstration was our way of reminding Virginia voters of what happened in Charlottesville four years ago, the Republican party’s embrace of those values, and Glenn Youngkin’s failure to condemn it," the Lincoln Project said in a statement claiming responsibility for the stunt on Friday.
The anti-Trump political action committee appeared to fall on the sword for Virginia Democrats who dressed up as white nationalists in a failed bid to link Youngkin to racist views. "We're all in for Glenn," members of the group said, according to a viral tweet written by an NBC 29 reporter.
Members of McAuliffe's campaign team were quick to draw attention to the stunt and frame Youngkin's supporters as white nationalists. Communications staffer Jen Goodman tweeted that the gathering was "disgusting and disqualifying."
Twitter sleuths quickly identified the individuals who took part in the bizarre protest as Virginia Democrats, with some scrubbing their online prescence.