The NRCC has loudly touted restaurateur Irina Vilariño’s campaign against freshman Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in Florida’s 26th District, but they’re being a whole lot more quiet now that her numerous tweets touting far-right conspiracy theories have surfaced.
This week, Talking Points Memo’s Cameron Joseph reported that in March, a month before she kicked off her congressional bid, Vilariño shared a video that was faked to make Barack Obama sound like he was saying, “It’s true, I’m not an American. I wasn’t born in Hawaii, I wasn’t born in the United States of America. I come from Kenya.” And sadly, there’s much more from the muck where that came from.
Last year, Vilariño spread an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory alleging that Jewish financier George Soros was working to destroy Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, with Vilariño adding that readers should “follow the money.” Around the same time she approvingly retweeted an account promoting the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy movement that smeared Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.
Vilariño told TPM in response, “I don’t think any of these tweets warrant an apology, and I am not going to fearfully pander every time someone thinks they might be offended.” She specifically defended the tweet with the phony Obama audio, saying, “It was a very interesting video of the president in his own words. I can see how that could be controversial. However, I don’t see how rehatching [sic] this tweet could be beneficial to finding solutions to our pressing problems.”
While Vilariño’s messaging is, sadly, perfectly at home in today’s Republican Party, it’s unlikely to resonate well in a Miami-area seat that reacted badly to Trump. This district backed Hillary Clinton 57-41, and according to analyst Matthew Isbell, all five statewide Democrats carried the seat last year.
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