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Gov. Youngkin 'regrets' campaign tweet slamming Virginia teen

The teen activist called tweet "bullying." The governor called the tweet "unauthorized," but did not apologize.

WASHINGTON — Gov. Glenn Youngkin is speaking out for the first time after a now-deleted tweet over the weekend caused quite a stir among Virginia lawmakers. Youngkin offered his regrets Monday for the tweet from his official campaign Twitter account that slammed a teenager who had posted a tweet criticizing a recent story about the governor's administration. 

“Here’s a picture of Ethan with a man that had a Blackface/KKK photo in his yearbook,” Team Youngkin tweeted on Saturday, showing 17-year-old Ethan Lynne, with former Gov. Ralph Northam, along with a picture from Northam's 1984 medical school textbook showing a man in blackface and a man in KKK robes.

Youngkin called the tweet "unauthorized."

"I regret that this happened and it shouldn’t have," the governor tweeted Monday morning. "I have addressed it with my team. We must continue to work to bring Virginians together. There is so much more that unites us than divides us."

The tweet from Team Youngkin was later deleted, but not before it had been screenshotted and shared many times on the internet. 

Lynne called the tweet bullying and says he would still like an actual apology. 

"While he acknowledged the situation, Governor Youngkin did not apologize and did not condemn what happened over the weekend," Lynne tweeted Monday. "I still hope he does, and that he will take time to recognize the culture of toxicity he has created within his first month of office."

In an interview with WUSA9 Monday from his home in a suburb of Richmond, Lynne said he still has not heard from the governor. 

"It just wasn't an apology," Lynne said. "It was a statement of regret and that it was the staff who did it... He didn't condemn it. He ...did not go as far as he could have."

So how did a high school student capture the attention of the governor's team in the first place? The source of conflict appears to have started Saturday when Lynne retweeted a story from Virginia Public Media (VPM) about the resignation of the historian who taught about enslaved people who lived and worked in the Governor's Mansion in Richmond.  

The Youngkin team denies the validity of the story. 

"Nothing was moved by the Youngkin administration staff and the space has not been transformed into a living room," Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter responded to Lynne on Saturday. "The previous mansion director oversaw the moving of Deetz’s desk. The First Lady looks forward to finalizing the executive mansion layout and tours."

VPM issued a correction, and Lynne retweeted that.

"This is a rookie mistake," Stephen Farnsworth, director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington, said of the governor's response time. "When you make a mistake, you want to make a correction and an apology right away. This has become the biggest story in Virginia for the last two days because of the delay in putting out the apology that everybody knew was in the governor's best interest to put out."

Lynne has volunteered in Democratic circles, but Larry Sabato, founder of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said that does not make the teenager a legitimate target for hardball politics.

"You can argue the fine points forever about whether somebody who's active in a party is fair game, but he's 17," Sabato said. "This was petty. It was mean and it was cheap. And Youngkin will pay a price for it."

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