Democratic candidate for Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe is denying a local news station’s claim that he abruptly stormed out of an interview halfway through.
McAuliffe spokesman Renzo Olivari on Wednesday shared screenshots of his text messages with WJLA-TV reporter Nick Minock, which purport to show the interview was scheduled for 10 minutes, not 20 as the station claimed.
Olivari accused the ABC affiliate station of ‘mislead[ing] viewers by saying Terry “abruptly” left an interview that was ALWAYS scheduled to be 10 mins long.’
McAuliffe’s campaign went on the defensive as a poll shows GOP rival Glenn Youngkin has closed their once substantial polling gap, crediting chaos at two of the state’s woke school boards with helping drive voters to his side.
On Tuesday, the station published the full interviews and transcripts of Minock’s sit-downs with McAuliffe and Youngkin, with an anchor claiming that 20 minutes had been allotted for both candidates, but that McAuliffe left early.
The controversy is the latest twist in the closely-watched November 2 election, which is now neck-and-neck, and has major implications for President Joe Biden’s agenda and next year’s midterms.
Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat running for Virginia governor, is denying that he left a local TV interview ‘abruptly’, with a spokesman saying it was only scheduled for 10 minutes
The station claimed that reporter Nick Minock (above) had promised both candidate an interview of exactly 20 minutes to give them equal time, but McAuliffe cut his interview short
McAuliffe spokesman Renzo Olivari denied WJLA-TV’s portrayal of the interview
Youngkin seized on the controversy, claiming McAuliffe walked out on the interview because of a sense of ‘entitlement’ stemming from having previously served as governor of Virginia from 2014 until 2018.
Indeed, in its promos for the interview ahead of the November 2 election, a WJLA anchor claimed that McAuliffe had walked out ‘abruptly’ before the scheduled time expired.
‘We do want to point out that the Terry McAuliffe interview is shorter than our interview with Glenn Youngkin, that was not by our doing,’ the anchor explained on-air.
Text messages shared by the McAuliffe campaign purport to show that Minock agreed to a 10-minute interview
‘Nick offered both candidates 20 minutes exactly to be fair, for the interviews. McAuliffe abruptly ended 7 News’ interview after just 10 minutes and told Nick that he should have asked better questions,’ the anchor added.
Just over 10 minutes into the interview recorded last week, McAuliffe is heard telling Minock: ‘Alright, we are over. That’s it. That’s it. Hey I gave you extra time. C’mon man.’
‘You should have asked better questions early on. You should have asked questions your viewers care about,’ McAuliffe continues, as he gets up and walks away.
In his response, McAuliffe spokesman Olivari shared a screenshot of what appears to be an iMessage conversation with Minock, in which he tells the reporter: ‘We will have an event in Fairfax County at around 10am so we can do it after that – we have about 10mins for it. Let me know.’
‘Let’s do it. Thank you!’ Minock apparently responded.
Olivari said that it was misleading to characterize McAuliffe’s departure as abrupt, writing ‘in the video you can see how lighthearted and joking Terry was after the interview.’
Representatives for WJLA, which is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, did not immediately respond to an request for comment from DailyMail.com outside of business hours on Thursday.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin (right) slammed McAuliffe over the controversy in an interview with Fox & Friends on Wednesday
McAuliffe’s opponent Youngkin, who is backed by Donald Trump, pounced on the interview controversy and said McAuliffe is ‘losing it’.
‘This is what Terry McAuliffe does, I guess,’ Youngkin told Fox & Friends in Falls Church, Virginia. ‘I think he might feel entitled because, he thinks, he was governor – but he didn’t do a good job – people shouldn’t ask him hard questions.’
‘These aren’t that hard of questions. How are you going to fix our schools’ and what are you going to do to make our communities safe? I mean, these are questions I get every day.’
He compared it to spending his Tuesday at a campaign rally with voters in Fairfax County, Virginia.
‘We had nearly 1,000 people last night, we were talking about it, I know what we are going to do to make our community safe,’ Youngkin said.
‘And here is Terry McAuliffe, who won’t even answer questions from a local reporter. I mean, he yells at sheriffs, he barks at people all the time. I think he’s losing it because he knows this race is slipping away from him.’
He was referring to a September incident in which McAuliffe got into a tense exchange with a sheriff who confronted him about an endorsement from a group that the sheriff claimed want to defund the police. In video of the event McAuliffe tells the sheriff, who has appeared in a Youngkin campaign ad, that he didn’t ‘care’ whether he believed him or not.
At his rally on Tuesday Youngkin attacked Loudon education officials and called for an investigation into a reported sexual assault at one of the county’s schools said to have been carried out by a boy in a skirt using a girl’s bathroom, while also outlining a plan for keeping students safe.
Youngkin needs the support of Donald Trump, the most popular figure in the GOP, but must avoid being tied too closely to someone who is unpopular in much of the state
The race is shaping up to be the most closely watched of 2021, with major implications for President Joe Biden’s agenda and next year’s midterms
Youngkin accused Loudon County officials of ‘gross negligence’ on Wednesday and said what happened there ‘could happen across Virginia.’
The boy accused of attacking the 15 year-old girl was later moved to another school in Loudoun County, where he is said to have struck again in October. He is now in custody awaiting his next court hearing.
Issues surrounding the deepening divide between the Justice Department and parents opposed to mask wearing and Critical Race Theory in schools have polarized the two candidates even further and focused the race, in its final weeks, on the question of who exactly is the final decision maker on public school education.
McAuliffe, who held a commanding lead over Youngkin earlier this year, has recently seen his poll numbers slipping as the Biden administration cracks down on violent outbreaks at schoolboard meetings and outside education officials’ homes.
‘Terry McAuliffe is on the wrong side of this issue,’ Youngkin said on Wednesday. ‘He knows it, he wants government to control our children, and parents aren’t having any part of it.’
Polls show that the gubernatorial contest in Virginia is now extremely tight, despite the state’s increasing tendency to elect Democrats to statewide and federal offices.
The latest poll from Monmouth University shows the candidates deadlocked in a tie with 46 percent support each among registered voters.
McAuliffe previously served as Virginia’s governor from 2014 to 2018, but was barred from running for a consecutive term by the state’s constitution.
The incumbent governor, Democrat Ralph Northam, is similarly term-limited this year.
Youngkin, the Republican candidate, is a businessman who built a career in private equity, and later founded a non-profit focused on job skills training.
A Youngkin win could rattle Democrats uncertain about riding Biden’s political coattails – potentially making them less likely to take risky votes to pass his agenda – and would buoy Republicans heading into the midterms.
Both candidates have had to delicately balance their relationships with their party leaders, as they seek support from independents in the swing state.
Youngkin needs the support of Donald Trump, the most popular figure in the GOP, but must avoid being tied too closely to someone who is unpopular in crucial swaths of the state, particularly the suburbs that surround Washington, D.C., and Richmond.
Similarly, McAuliffe has distanced himself from Biden, downplaying the importance of Congress passing the president’s agenda before the Virginia election.
Congress now faces a Halloween deadline to resolve a deadlock between moderates and progressives in the party, and reach a deal to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure bill and $3.5 trillion social and environmental spending package.
Democrats believe that if they can push the package through by the deadline, it will boost McAuliffe’s fortunes in the election just days later.
But at a campaign stop in the DC suburbs on Tuesday, McAuliffe said he didn’t think voters in Virginia were too concerned about the congressional impasse.
‘What I’m hearing around Virginia is not what’s going on in Washington DC at all. It’s, ‘What are you going to do for my life?” McAuliffe told reporters in McLean, according to Yahoo News.
McAuliffe has been surprisingly public in his criticism of the Biden administration’s legislative strategy, urging Democrats to pass the infrastructure bill, on its own if necessary, before Election Day to give him something to show voters.
White House officials privately expect McAuliffe to emerge with a narrow win and believe they can ignore worries about a smaller-than-expected margin of victory dampening party support for Biden’s agenda.