President Donald Trump attacked Democratic Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam, an Army veteran, for being weak on veterans’ issues in tweets littered with falsehoods ahead of Tuesday’s election.
Trump, who received multiple deferments to avoid serving in Vietnam, including one for bone spurs in his foot, and referred to his avoidance of sexually transmitted diseases in the 1980’s as his own “personal Vietnam,” smeared Northam, who served for eight years in the US Army.
“Ralph Northam will allow crime to be rampant in Virginia,” Trump tweeted. “He’s weak on crime, weak on our GREAT VETS, Anti-Second Amendment and has been horrible on Virginia economy. Vote @EdWGillespie today!”
“@EdWGillespie will totally turn around the high crime and poor economic performance of VA,” he added. “MS-13 and crime will be gone. Vote today, ASAP!”
There is a lot to unpack here but let’s start with the idea that Northam, who served as a second lieutenant before rising to the rank of major while serving for eight years, including in Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf War, is “weak” on vets.
As Northam’s campaign site points out, “In the past year, under Governor McAuliffe and Lt. Governor Northam, Virginia has doubled the number of veterans placed in jobs through the Virginia Values Veterans program. Ralph also supported legislation to establish a program to connect returning military medics to private sector healthcare jobs. Previously, these men and women would go unemployed because their medical experience was not recognized in civilian society, while employers left jobs unfilled, especially EMT positions. As an Army doctor, Ralph knows medics are highly qualified for such positions, having training and field experience with a variety of traumatic wounds.”
Trump’s claim that Northam is “anti-Second Amendment” is a tired and highly inaccurate right-wing talking point.
Northam doesn’t want to take anyone’s guns. He wants apparently highly radical things like banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines. He wants to regulate gun stocks and put a limit on how many guns a person can buy a one time.
The crime and MS-13 boogeyman issue is one that Trump has seized from far-right blogs and tied to his anti-immigration rhetoric. It’s also one that has little basis in reality.
According to the Justice Department, there are only about 6,000-10,000 MS-13 members in the entire country while overall there are 1.4 million people who are actively associated with other gangs.
Gillespie, too, has claimed that MS-13 is a rampant problem and claimed that there are over 2,000 MS-13 members in just one county in Virginia, which would mean that one-third to one-fifth of all MS-13 members live in Fairfax County.
His claim drew skepticism from Washington Post fact-checkers, who pointed out, “In context, 2,000 gang members out of more than 1 million people — especially if it is isolated to small pockets and restricted to gang-on-gang violence — is a relatively small number,” and added that it is unlikely that Fairfax has so many members given that there are only an estimated 900-1100 members in the entire DC area, which includes the district as well as Virginia and Maryland.