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Sabato balks at attempt by state GOP to have his tweets investigated
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Sabato balks at attempt by state GOP to have his tweets investigated

Sabato

Larry J. Sabato, founder and director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, speaks during the Democracy Dialogues program in January. The Republican Party of Virginia is attempting to force an ethics investigation into Sabato’s tweets that were critical of former President Donald Trump.

Larry J. Sabato, founder and director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, has balked at an attempt from the Republican Party of Virginia to force an ethics investigation prompted by several tweets critical of former President Donald Trump.

State GOP Chairman Rich Anderson sent a letter Thursday to UVa President Jim Ryan that pointed to social media posts by Sabato that he claimed violated the nonpartisan nature of the Center for Politics.

“In order to have faith in our institutions, it is essential that Virginians hold accountable those public employees and officials who violate institutional values, codes of conduct, and other guidelines of professional behavior,” Anderson wrote.

Sabato founded the Center for Politics in 1998 and assists in predicting the outcomes of elections across the country.

Included in the letter were eight of Sabato’s tweets that were critical of Trump, with several of the tweets dated after the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection attempt, Trump’s second impeachment and the end of his term.

In the most recent tweet, dated Wednesday, Sabato questioned whether Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin was still honored to have received Trump’s enthusiastic endorsement for governor.

“In order to have faith in our institutions, it is essential that Virginians hold accountable those public employees and officials who violate institutional values, codes of conduct, and other guidelines of professional behavior,” Anderson wrote.

However, despite the RPV’s attempt to force an ethics investigation, Sabato apparently remained undeterred, taking to twitter to poke fun at the letter in a series of separate tweets and to retweet messages of support from other users.

“Thanks to the Republicans for the hearty laugh you’ve given me … There goes my reserved seat at your next #insurrection,” Sabato tweeted Thursday evening. “Oh well.”

“Imagine: A party that tried to steal the U.S. presidential election is suddenly concerned about ‘ethics,’” Sabato later tweeted in response to another user.

Sabato declined a Daily Progress request for comment Friday, but told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that his tone has changed in recent years due to Trump and the attempted insurrection, which he called a watershed moment.

“People had better pay attention because if they don’t, it’s going to happen again,” Sabato said.

Ken Stroupe, chief of staff for the Center for Politics, criticized Anderson for Googling mission statements but never bothering to look up any of the work that the Center for Politics has been doing for decades.

“If a student submitted this, I would grade it as sloppy and tell the student to do more research,” Stroupe said. “But he’s the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia and he’s actively trying to bulldoze First Amendment rights and academic freedoms. That is dangerous ground and it should concern everyone.”

Stroupe said he never saw the letter before it was published online and has never heard from Anderson about the center’s work.

“From a political standpoint, this is just bad optics for the Republican Party as Virginia heads into a statewide election,” Stroupe said. “Seems to me there are smarter ways for a party chairman to employ his time.”

When reached for comment, UVa spokesman Brian Coy pointed to a new statement on freedom of expression and freedom of inquiry approved by the UVa Board of Visitors in June.

“Free expression and exchange of ideas is a core value of our university from its very founding,” Coy said. “There is nothing in our Code of Conduct that limits university faculty and employees from engaging in expression that is protected under the First Amendment.”

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