By Brandon Jarvis

Terry McAuliffe’s campaign says that he will not accept the invitation to attend the gubernatorial election debate at Liberty University next month. McAuliffe’s spokesperson is blaming the decision to decline on the Republican nominee’s attendance at an election integrity rally next week.

“Upon learning that Glenn Youngkin will be attending an ‘Election Integrity’ rally hosted at Liberty University by insurrectionists who attended the deadly event at the U.S. Capitol, Terry McAuliffe will be declining Liberty University’s invitation to participate in its upcoming gubernatorial forum,” said Jake Rubenstein, a spokesperson for McAuliffe. “This ‘Election Integrity’ event at Liberty University will be providing Glenn Youngkin with a platform to peddle Donald Trump’s debunked lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.”

McAuliffe has previously announced that he accepted five general debate invitations and Youngkin has said that he will participate in three. Two of those debates overlap with debates that McAuliffe already accepted, but this debate at Liberty next month was the third debate Youngkin accepted. 

One of the debates that McAuliffe accepted was set to be hosted by the Virginia Bar Association (VBA) last week, but the event was canceled after Youngkin declined to attend. Youngkin blamed a donation from the moderator to the Clinton Foundation after the Haiti earthquake and an unwillingness from organizers to commit to discussing economic issues as to why he declined. 

The McAuliffe campaign has continued to criticize Youngkin for declining that debate. “Upon winning the Democratic nomination, Terry quickly accepted invitations to participate in five debates in five different regions of the Commonwealth,” Rubenstein said Wednesday. “Glenn Youngkin has already skipped the Virginia Bar Association Debate — the first candidate of either party in 36 years to do so.“  

McAuliffe has been calling for Youngkin to drop out of the election integrity event since the news broke that he would attend. In a statement provided to Virginia Scope by the Youngkin campaign earlier on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Youngkin campaign responded to McAuliffe’s statements. 

“As an American, Glenn Youngkin is absolutely right that in order for Virginia to do well economically, the foundations of our country must be strong, including confidence in the integrity of our elections and Americans’ willingness to accept the results of our democratic process,” said Matt Wolking, Youngkin’s communications director.​ “As a homegrown Virginian, Glenn Youngkin has been clear from day one that his number one priority as governor will be building a rip-roaring economy in the Commonwealth so that it is the best place in America to live, work, and raise a family. Career politician Terry McAuliffe is stuck in the past and spreading lies and smears because he doesn’t have a positive record to run on.”

McAuliffe’s spokesperson said the event is insulting to people fighting for the country. “These types of events are unpatriotic, diminish respect for the Commonwealth and our country around the world, and are an insult to the men and women fighting right now to protect our sacred democracy,” Rubenstein said. 

With McAuliffe not attending the Liberty event and Youngkin not attending the AARP debate, Virginia voters will likely only see the two candidates from both major political parties debate each other twice. 

“Terry continues to urge Glenn Youngkin to withdraw from and condemn the ‘Election Integrity’ rally being held at Liberty University next week,” Rubenstein said Wednesday. “He hopes Glenn will agree to join him at the AARP Virginia debate hosted by WTVR in Richmond and the Norfolk State University debate that both candidates were invited to well over a month ago.”

Youngkin responded to McAuliffe’s decision Wednesday night. “Terry McAuliffe just said on Friday that he would debate me any time, any where,” Youngkin tweeted. “Today he declined an invitation to debate me at Hampton University. His word was good for almost 5 days — must be a record!”


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