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McDonnell: Not Our Flag -- With Update from Show Manager

Anita Kumar

In a posting on Twitter, the campaign manager for Democrat Creigh Deeds is encouraging people to look at a photograph posted on the left-leaning blog Not Larry Sabato that claims to show that Republican Bob McDonnell's campaign displayed a confederate flag in its booth at a sportsman show.

But McDonnell's campaign says the flag was not theirs.

Flag Photo.jpg

"The flag was not in our booth,'' McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said. "However, there still is an actual story here. The fact that Creigh Deeds' campaign is actively pushing this falsehood demonstrates their desperation is greater than anyone expected. And it also will cost them a lot of credibility right as the campaign enters the home stretch. Not a good day for them."

"To misrepresent a photo for political gain is the worst kind of politics,'' Martin said.

Martin said the flag belonged to an adjacent booth, which was selling confederate flags and other paraphernalia, though the angle of the photo makes it appears as if the flag was McDonnell's. He said the campaign has spoken to the six people -- a combination of staff and volunteers -- who worked the Mechanicsville show last weekend and all denied that they displayed a flag.

Joe Abbey, Deeds campaign manager, sent out a tweet this afternoon: "BREAKING NEWS: MCDONNELL HAS CONFEDERATE FLAG POSTED IN HIS BOOTH AT GUN SHOW IN RICHMOND" linking to the blog story.

"It was Joe's personal retweet, not the campaign's,'' said Mo Elleithee, Deeds spokesman. "Today we're focused on drawing a contrast between Creigh's vision of moving Virginia forward and Bob McDonnell's record of hurting southside Virginia and his support of the Bush economic agenda. If the McDonnell campaign would like to answer for that, we're all ears."

Not Larry Sabato posted the photo on its blog last night. Ben Tribbett, who runs the blog, said he received the photo by email but would not reveal from whom. He said he was not himself present at the event and though he believes the photograph shows that the pole of the flag is indeed in the McDonnell booth, that it is troublesome even if the flag was at the next table.

"If a confederate flag was placed at the exact median point between the McDonnell booth and a confederate booth and the McDonnell campaign was not smart enough to demand that it be taken down or that their booth be moved, that's almost as bad as if the flag were at their booth," he said. "Either way, it shows a real insensitivity to what the flag means."

In 1999, Deeds and McDonnell, both members of the House of Delegates, voted for a bill that allowed the Sons of Confederate Veterans to have a specialty license plate. The House, through an unrecorded voice vote, amended the bill to remove all logos and emblems. The House passed the amended bill, 81-18.

According to a 1999 Roanoke Times article, Deeds told legislators during that debate that: "I grew up in a house with a portrait of the Confederate flag on the wall. I grew up in a house with a portrait of Robert E. Lee on the wall over my bed."

UPDATE: Hugh Crittenden, the founder and manager of the Virginia Outdoor Sportsman Show, is backing up McDonnell.

Crittenden said he invited both campaigns to staff a booth at the show, which draws 20,000 people each year. McDonnell's campaign decided to show, but came late, so Crittenden assigned them the only booth left open: Number 43.

It happened to be next another vendor who also signed up late, Down Home T-Shirts, which got Number 44. According to material submitted to the show, Down Home T-Shirts sells "Confederate T-shirts and more."

He said even if McDonnell's staffers had asked for a move, the show was so crowded that they could not have been accommodated.

"I don't want Bob McDonnell to get a bad rap from my show. He was there trying to be there for the outdoors people and the hunters," Crittenden said.

Anita Kumar and Rosalind S. Helderman

By Anita Kumar  |  August 11, 2009; 2:18 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Anita Kumar , Creigh Deeds , Election 2009 , Robert F. McDonnell  
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I believe the Democrat blogger you quoted ran Ben "Cooter" Jones unsuccessful campaign against Eric Cantor. Yes, the Cooter that drove the General Lee car with the Confederate flag on top - something he drove while campaigning. Hypocrite, but typical of the Deeds campaign.

Posted by: OldVirginian | August 11, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Has the Washington Post become the northern arm of that blog? Just curious since you keep using it as a "source" for material.

Posted by: anonymous2006x | August 11, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse

"It was Joe's personal retweet, not the campaign's,'' said Mo Elleithee, Deeds spokesman. "Today we're focused on..."

I cannot believe any half-intelligent spinmaster would say this. Totally absurd, lending himself no more credibility to me.

Mo might as well have finished saying...

...damage control. "Joe who? We have no Joe working in an official capacity as our manager AND an individual with his own tweet account. Nevermind Joe's tweet picture has Deeds and him sitting, Joe who?," the at-nausea Mo Elleithee kept trying to tell himself as he was walking around in a circle, almost incoherent.

Posted by: HumbleGovWorker | August 11, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

I think Deeds' absence from the show speaks volumes about how he views the sportsman vote. He is either ignoring it or worse, hoping they go away so he can court Northern Virginia. Both Mark Warner and Tim Kaine had a booth at the show when they ran for governor and Warner had a booth last year during his U.S. Senate race. Deeds' campaign missed an excellent opportunity to reach out to over 20,000 sportsmen and women and his campaign manager's referring to the show as a "gun show" demonstrates how tone deaf the campaign apparently is when it comes to this important constituency.

Posted by: vssapresident | August 12, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

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