What appears to be a bizarre campaign stunt against the Republican candidate in the pivotal Virginia governor's race is backfiring after online sleuths exposed the Democratic activists allegedly behind the scheme.
Mainstream media outlets and online liberal influencers pounced on the bait after a photograph surfaced of supposed supporters of Glenn Youngkin with what has been identified as white supremacist paraphernalia.
The four men and one women held Tiki torches, which were used by white supremacists at a 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The WVIR report of the incident dutifully reported the incident.
"Tiki torches were used by many white supremist [sic] who marched," the report read.
Jen Goodman, the communications director for the campaign of former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, immediately reposted it and said "This is disgusting and disqualifying."
Online sleuths immediately took up the challenge and begin trying to identify the culprits.
Among the two who suspiciously look like Democrat activists are Colleen Wachenfeld, whose profile said she works for the Virginia Democrats, and Camden Layton, whose profile said he worked as the finance director for the Virginia Democrats.
Many also noted that the two identified began scrubbing their social media accounts and going offline or changing their screennames so that they couldn't be searched.
A statement from the spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Virginia denied any involvement in the incident.
"The Democratic Party of Virginia, along with its coordinated partners and its affiliates, did not have any role today in the events that happened outside of the Youngkin campaign bus stop today," the statement read in part. "For anyone to accuse our staff to have a role in this event is shameful and wrong."
Youngkin also responded to the incident.
"I think they work for Terry McAuliffe, and I'm sure he sent them," he said. "They'll do anything to win, and he's doing anything to win, and so he's paying people to show up and act silly at our rallies."
Later on Friday, the anti-Trump organization Lincoln Project took responsibility for the stunt in a defiant statement. The liberal activist organization of former Republicans said they would continue their operations against Youngkin despite being condemned strongly by the McAuliffe campaign.
"What happened today is disgusting and distasteful and we condemn it in the strongest terms. Those involved should immediately apologize," said a spokesperson for the McAuliffe campaign.
The stunt might be an attempt to smear Youngkin just as recent polling shows the Republican is gaining on McAuliffe. One poll published Thursday showed the Republican beating the former governor by a surprising margin of 8 percentage points.
Here's more on Virginia's gubernatorial race:
Youngkin: The sun is setting on Terry McAuliffe's political careerwww.youtube.com
[Ed. Note: This story has been updated with additional information.]