The Lincoln Project's neo-Nazi cosplay stunt in the final days of the Virginia governor's race was "recklessly stupid" and "showed appalling judgment by the day-to-day management and leadership of the Lincoln Project," according to Steve Schmidt, a founding member of the Lincoln Project's leadership team.
"I thought the action was recklessly stupid, it was dishonest and cheap," Schmidt said during a virtual conversation with Democratic strategist Bob Shrum. "It was exactly the wrong way to approach the fight against a real fascist movement."
The Lincoln Project colluded with Democratic activists to send a squad of interns dressed in white shirts and khakis to hold unlit tiki torches in the rain outside an Oct. 29 Glenn Youngkin campaign event. Journalists and members of Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe's campaign staff amplified the disinformation campaign by promoting it on social media. A backlash ensued, prompting the McAuliffe campaign to condemn the stunt and the Lincoln Project to claim responsibility.
Schmidt allegedly resigned from the Lincoln Project's board in February amid reports that the super PAC had enabled cofounder John Weaver's predatory sexual behavior toward young men, but he is still listed on the group's website as one of its leaders. He claimed to have had no knowledge of the neo-Nazi cosplay stunt and downplayed his Lincoln Project affiliation.
"I learned about it on the news like everybody else, and had no involvement with it," Schmidt said, insisting he was not actively involved in the super PAC's operations. He considered denouncing the stunt publicly but didn't want to create a "distraction" for McAuliffe, whom he as a recently registered Democrat wholeheartedly supported.
Schmidt, a former Republican consultant whose most notable accomplishment is persuading John McCain in 2008 to select Sarah Palin as a running mate, has described the Lincoln Project as a vehicle for "generational wealth." It remains to be seen if wealthy liberals will continue to donate large sums of money after the super PAC humiliated itself in Virginia, which was merely its most recent failed attempt to get a Democrat elected. The Washington Free Beacon has formally endorsed the Lincoln Project ahead of the 2022 midterms in light of this impressive track record.