The Trump-backed candidate for Pennsylvania governor refuses to apologize for repeating an anecdote from the white nationalist site InfoWars at a Sept. 12 campaign rally. The anecdote compares nonwhite undocumented immigrants and Muslims to a racoon infestation that only President Trump can exterminate.
Scott Wagner, a former state senator who won the GOP gubernatorial nomination, said in a statement on Thursday that his reference to racoons was not a metaphor for any specific group of people, as was used in the original InfoWars piece, PennLive.com reported.
Instead, racoons represent problems that he intends to “solve” like Trump does.
Trump’s embrace of the racist far-right wing of his party has encouraged some of them to run for office and to express racist views—sometimes using coded language. Add Wagner to the list that includes Corey Stewart in Virginia and Ron DeSantis in Florida, who both have Trump’s support.
The president endorsed Wagner during a rally in August. “We are honored to be joined tonight by your state’s Republican nominee for governor. A great guy. Somebody I know well. He’s going to be one hell of a governor. He’s tough, he’s smart — Scott Wagner,” Trump said.
At his own rally in September, Wagner told the crowd that he knows some people compare him to the president, according to the Tribune Review. “He and I, we know there’s a swamp. He knew there’s a swamp in D.C.; there’s a swamp in Harrisburg (Pennsylvania),” the candidate stated before reading the InfoWars anecdote.
Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party called on Wagner to apologize. His comments were “repugnant and racist. This just shows he has no business ever serving in public office again,” said the party’s spokesman Mike Mikus, according to the Tribune.
But if Wagner is anything like his idol, Donald Trump, he’ll try to ride a wave of bigotry into the governor’s mansion in November.