Dems critical of Wagner's silence on Charlottesville

David Weissman
York Dispatch
Scott Wagner speaks at a campaign tour kickoff at one of his Penn Waste facilities Monday, July 10, 2017. During the next four to six weeks, Wagner is planning stops across the state to bolster his gubernatorial run. Bill Kalina photo

Gubernatorial hopeful Scott Wagner has been silent on social media about the recent tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Democratic Party of York County has taken notice.

The group issued a statement Monday, Aug. 14, calling on the Republican state senator from Spring Garden Township to condemn the "domestic terrorism" that resulted in multiple deaths and injuries.

"It is now two full days since the violence erupted in that area, and no statement of any kind has come from Senator Wagner," the statement reads. "As someone who is seeking a higher role in the Pennsylvania government, Wagner should be concerned with the spread of violence and the bigoted rhetoric spread by the organizations that met in Virginia this past week."

Morning marches on Saturday, Aug. 12, in Charlottesville devolved into fights between those protesting the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, including neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and counter-protesters, injuring more than a dozen people.

The day turned deadly when a car plowed into counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and wounding at least two dozen. Also, a state police helicopter assisting at the rally crashed, killing the two troopers on board.

More:Yorkers react to Charlottesville violence

More:In Charlottesville, echoes of York City, circa 2002

More:Man accused of ramming protesters pictured with racist group

James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old from Ohio who is reported to be a Nazi sympathizer, was denied bail Monday, Aug. 14, after his arraignment on charges of second-degree murder, malicious wounding and hit and run.

Social media: As of press time, Wagner had not posted anything related to Charlottesville on any of his public social media profiles.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Aug. 15, Wagner told The York Dispatch he believes in fairness and said there's no room for hatred of any kind in our society.

Wagner pointed out that he's issued statements condemning hatred in the past, including proposing a Senate resolution to condemn acts of hate that occurred against Jewish communities in the state earlier this year.

He suggested the Democrats criticizing him go back and do some research about how consistent he has been in his roles as a businessman and senator in speaking out against hatred.

Alex Shorb, chairman of the York County Republican Committee, called the violence in Charlottesville a tragic situation, and he condemns any hate group.

Alex Shorb


Regarding Wagner's silence on the issue, Shorb said sometimes it is smart to understand all the facts surrounding a tragedy before issuing a statement.

Wagner said he didn't want to get involved in a national debate, and he doesn't intend to issue any statement related to Charlottesville on his social-media profiles.

Wagner has two public Facebook and Twitter profiles, one on each platform for his campaign and his role as a state senator.

He has only posted once — Monday morning on his Facebook campaign page — since the violence, and it was to criticize Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf for "job-killing regulations."

Wolf was quick to post on his social-media profiles regarding what took place in Virginia.

Just after 5:30 p.m., Aug. 12, Wolf wrote on his Facebook page that he stood with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe in "condemning the hatred and bigotry of white supremacists."

J.J. Abbott, spokesman for Wolf's office, wrote in an email to The York Dispatch that the governor believes every Pennsylvania leader must reject and condemn racism and bigotry "to honor the thousands of Pennsylvanians who gave their lives to defeat Nazis and the Confederacy."

"Silence in the face of hatred is unacceptable and un-American," Abbott wrote.

Condemnation: Wolf later issued an official statement in coordination with his advisory commissions on African American Affairs, Asian Pacific American Affairs, Latino Affairs and the Pennsylvania Commission for Women.

“Let’s be clear: white nationalists are racists, and the hateful beliefs that these groups espouse are un-American,” he said in the statement. “In America, no one group is supreme — but rather we are equal — no matter our race, gender or religion. The white supremacy rally in Charlottesville does not reflect the values we hold as Pennsylvanians or as Americans."

Shorb said he agreed with Wolf's statement, and he was happy he put it out.

He also said he was happy to hear Attorney General Jeff Sessions would be launching a full investigation into the actions in Charlottesville.

"We need to identify what the mistakes were so it doesn't happen again," Shorb said.

On Tuesday, Wolf criticized President Donald Trump’s comment at a news conference that “there’s blame on both sides” for last weekend’s violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The  governor directed a series of tweets Tuesday afternoon to Trump, saying the woman killed in a protest against white nationalists marching in her town “deserves better” than the president’s comment.

Wolf says “Americans died to defeat hate like this” and that one side carried torches and Confederate and Nazi flags and made bigoted and Nazi chants.

During an impromptu press conference in the lobby of his Manhattan skyscraper, Trump on Tuesday had praised his original response to the Charlottesville clashes and angrily blamed liberal groups in addition to white supremacists for the violence. Some of those protesting the rally to save a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee were “also very violent,” he said.

“There are two sides to a story,” he said.

Gubernatorial challenger: Wagner's Republican challenger for the 2018 gubernatorial primary race, Paul Mango, issued a statement similar to Wolf's on his campaign Facebook page.

"The events in Charlottesville are reprehensible," Mango wrote on Facebook. "White Supremacy and bigotry have no place in America and I strongly condemn it and the hateful and evil actions of those in Charlottesville. These contemptible individuals do not speak for what is best about America, and should face the full punishment of the law."

While some offered comments of support for Mango's statement, the majority of commenters on his page expressed dissatisfaction with him for singling out white supremacists for condemnation.

"Just another politically correct politician that refuses to admit that both sides of the aisle are hate-filled lunatics," one commenter wrote.

Similar comments were posted in response to Wolf's statement.

Trump:  Trump was widely criticized for his initial response to the violence in Charlottesville.

In the hours after the incident, Trump addressed the violence in broad strokes, saying that he condemns "in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides."

More:Trump speaks on Charlottesville: 'Racism is evil'

On Monday, Aug. 14, he issued an updated statement, condemning hate groups as "repugnant" and declaring "racism is evil."

The president described members of the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who take part in violence as "criminals and thugs" in a prepared statement from the White House.

Then came Tuesday's backtrack. While the president acknowledged there were “some very bad people” looking for trouble in the protest group, he added, “But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides,” he said.

Wagner said Trump is never going to win with the press, but the bottom line is that we, as a country, can't tolerate hatred.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

— Reach David Weissman at or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.