By Julian Routh
Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner has apologized for a three-minute rant livestreamed Friday morning on Facebook in which he warned Gov. Tom Wolf that he would “stomp all over” his face with “golf spikes” between now and the Nov. 6 election.
“I may have chosen a poor metaphor,” Mr. Wagner, the Republican candidate, said in another Facebook video later Friday. “I may have had poor choice of words. I shouldn’t have said what I said. The original video was not on the site later Friday.
“But you know the bottom line is we have a governor who refuses to have town hall meetings. He refuses to have debates. There are a lot of issues in Pennsylvania: seniors being forced out of their homes because of high school taxes; farmers losing their farms to foreclosure.”
The video that prompted the apology showed him standing beside an anti-Wagner billboard on the side of a road in York. Mr. Wagner looked into the camera and said he was “sick and tired” of negative advertisements, and — in what some called a threat — blasted the incumbent Democratic governor in a blunt manner.
“Gov. Wolf, let me tell you, between now and November 6th, you better put a catcher’s mask on your face because I’m going to stomp all over your face with golf spikes,” Mr. Wagner said, “because I’m going to win this for the state of Pennsylvania and we’re throwing you out of office.”
Though some Democrats responded with alarm, Wagner spokesman Andrew Romeo said before the apology was issued that the Republican candidate’s comments were “not to be taken literally.”
“He wanted them to be a metaphor for how he will approach the final stretch of the campaign,” Mr. Romeo said, adding that Mr. Wolf has “spent the entire race hiding behind false and negative attack ads like a coward.”
Mike Mikus, senior communications adviser for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, called it an “unhinged rant” and asked if Mr. Wagner was channeling John Wayne, Clint Eastwood or Rambo — referencing three personalities he has compared himself to in the past.
In the video early Friday, Mr. Wagner stood in front of a billboard that read, “Scott Wagner’s Penn Waste sued 6,979 Pennsylvanians. Learn why.”
Though he claimed the billboard was put up by Mr. Wolf and his “Democrat cronies,” it was paid for by Pennsylvania Spotlight, an organization that says it’s dedicated to “shining a light on the deep-pocketed special interests acting against the best interest of Pennsylvania residents.”
Next to Mr. Wagner in the video were six bundles of 100 paychecks, in an attempt to criticize the governor for “trashing” small businesses.
“This is what 100 paychecks looks like,” Mr. Wagner said, picking up a bundle. “There are six bundles of these paychecks we issued today in my various companies. Six hundred paychecks today to hardworking employees who get great wages, great benefits and they have great health insurance.”
He pointed to the billboard, saying, “This is an insult to anybody that issues paychecks,” and added that Pennsylvania will vote Mr. Wolf out of office in November.
Although Mr. Wagner later apologized for the golf-spikes comments, he didn’t soften his campaign rhetoric.
“You know what? We have a governor who will not come out and talk to the people of Pennsylvania. And you know, I’m getting sick of guys like Tom Wolf that have no interest in talking to people,” he said in the second video.
“Oh yeah, they say all the right things, but they don’t mean a single thing they say. And trust me when I tell you, folks, I’m very passionate. Don’t confuse anger with passion. I will continue to fight for the people of Pennsylvania. That’s why I made a decision to run to be the next governor of Pennsylvania.”