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J.D. Vance Gets Canceled

Can’t a Republican Senate candidate make one little crack about not caring about Ukraine?
by Jim Swift
March 18, 2022
J.D. Vance Gets Canceled
(Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

It seems J.D. Vance’s “No BS Tour” is skipping a stop in Minnesota. The Ohio Senate hopeful, currently polling in third place, was slated to speak at the Minnesota GOP’s annual Lincoln-Reagan dinner fundraising event. Then, without explanation, he was pulled.

Scheduled on April Fool’s Day with no apparent sense of irony, the invite went out in late February and almost immediately, Minnesota Republicans pushed back against Vance’s selection. Brian McClung, former spokesman for Gov. Tim Pawlenty tweeted:

Michael Brodkorb, former deputy chair of the Minnesota Republican party, observed that “numerous Republican operatives” were “fuming” about the selection of Vance as the keynote speaker, highlighting Vance’s ill-informed and callous (not to mention electorally stupid) comments about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a primary reason for their ire. Though maybe the objection is really about Vance being Vance.

For those who may have forgotten: Vance went on Steve Bannon’s War Room and said “I gotta be honest with you, I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or another” during a clumsy attempt to show that his real priority is the U.S.-Mexico border and stopping shipments of fentanyl.

He then kind of, sort of, walked back his statements a few days later.

But then he cashed in one of infinite invitations to go on Tucker Carlson’s show to un-walk back the walk-back. The banner on his campaign webpage features the following fundraising appeal: “Secure our Southern Border and NOT Ukraine’s Border! Stand with Tucker Carlson and JD Vance.”

In other words: J.D. Vance is gonna J.D. Vance. It’s what he does.

But he has other problems, too. Vance is also under fire for investing in the platform Rumble with his political sugar daddy, Peter Thiel. Rumble, if you’re not familiar, is YouTube for those who have been “canceled” by Big Tech.

Mostly that means your garden-variety far-right, white-nationalist types. But Rumble is also the new home to RT, the Kremlin’s propaganda channel.

Poor guy can’t catch a break.

Howard Root, a prominent Minnesota businessman, has taken credit for inviting Vance to the fundraiser, saying:

But then, without explanation, the Minnesota GOP announced that CPAC’s Matt Schlapp would be the event’s keynote speaker, and not Vance.

The Minnesota GOP did not respond to a request for comment. [See update below.]

It all feels a little unfair to Vance. After all, the frontrunner to win the GOP nomination for the Minnesota governor’s race is Dr. Scott Jensen—a vaccine refuser and ivermectin lover—who said in a speech late last year:

One day I was on the Moscow News because Moscow was making a big deal about in America, they’re so afraid of the truth that a doctor who tells the truth gets in trouble. Well, I never expected any help from Mr. Putin but I’m getting it.

Jensen denies that this remark was praise of Putin, but was merely surprise that his outspoken views on COVID-19 measures and “censorship in America” had “attracted voices I never expected worldwide to weigh in.” Not sure that’s much better, though.

As for Matt Schlapp, he invited former Democratic congresswoman and celebrity Putin sympathizer Tulsi Gabbard to speak at the Ronald Reagan Dinner at CPAC in Florida last month.

And yet it’s J.D. Vance who gets tossed over the side. It hardly seems fair. But then, conservative cancel culture never is.

[UPDATE (3/18/22 | 12:07 P.M): After the publication of this story, the Executive Director Mike Longergan of the Minnesota GOP responded:

“This story is looking for drama where there is none – unfortunately, J.D. Vance is no longer able to speak to our April 1 event due to a scheduling conflict. We look forward to hosting J.D. Vance when the schedule permits.” ]

Jim Swift

Jim Swift is a senior editor at The Bulwark.