Former U.S. congressman and current Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia Tom Perriello apologized Wednesday for comparing President Donald Trump’s election to 9/11.
“The election of Donald Trump was a little bit like, you know, a political and constitutional Sept. 11 for us, if I can be honest,” Perriello said Friday during a campaign stop in Afton, Virginia. The Washington Free Beacon published video footage Wednesday of Perriello making the comparison. Virginia is the home of the Pentagon, where nearly 200 people died on 9/11.
Shortly after the clip was posted online, Perriello issued an apology on Twitter.
“Yeah. Probably don’t do this,” Travis Fain, a reporter for the Newport News Daily Press, tweeted Wednesday.
“I regret the comparison and apologize. Won’t do it again,” Perriello replied.
I regret the comparison and apologize. Won't do it again. https://t.co/5KEDysdKTX
— Tom Perriello (@tomperriello) February 15, 2017
Perriello made the comment in the context of trying to make a broader point about Trump’s historic election.
“The Democratic establishment, in my mind, has not understood how big of a moment this is,” Perriello said, according to the Free Beacon.
Ed Gillespie, Republican candidate for Virginia governor, seized on Perriello’s comment just more than an hour after the apology.
“Tom Perriello’s 9/11 comparison is offensive. His calculated outrage is becoming increasingly outrageous,” Gillespie tweeted.
Tom Perriello’s 9/11 comparison is offensive. His calculated outrage is becoming increasingly outrageous. https://t.co/ue90a0mzja
— Ed Gillespie (@EdWGillespie) February 15, 2017
Perriello was elected to Congress as part of the Democratic wave in 2008. Perriello lost his re-election bid in 2010 to Republican Robert Hurt, despite former President Barack Obama campaigning for Perriello’s re-election in the commonwealth.
Upon leaving public office six years ago, Perriello went on to work as the CEO of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank based in Washington, D.C. In 2015, Obama appointed Perriello to the State Department, where he served as special envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa.
Perriello and Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam will face off in June in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. The winner of that contest will go on to compete against the Republican nominee for governor. Gillespie faces a Republican primary challenge from businessman Denver Riggleman, Prince William County Board of Supervisors chairman Corey Stewart and state Sen. Frank Wagner, according to Ballotpedia.