Photos: Sean Parnell Facebook and Official White House Photo
Sean Parnell and Donald Trump
After former President Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 election, a cavalcade of Pennsylvania Republicans sprang to Trump's defense
, and even went as far to attempt to delegitimize President Joe Biden’s election victory. Among those were former Congressional candidate and now U.S. Senate candidate Sean Parnell
(R-Ohio Township), who joined a failed suit against Gov. Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania legislature claiming that the state's mail-in voting law was unconstitutional.
In fact, all attempts to delegitimize Pennsylvania’s election results were thwarted by the courts, but that hasn’t stopped Republicans like Parnell
from continuing to call the election results into question, as Trump continues to parrot similar talking points.
But this wasn’t always the case. Before Trump secured the Republican nomination in 2016, Parnell criticized Trump often and in harsh terms. He called for Trump to release his tax returns (only to criticize liberals for focusing on tax returns a year later), he said Trump’s campaign was failing to unify the country, and he criticized Trump’s debate performance, all while openly endorsing and supporting Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Florida) run for president.
Here’s a list of tweets criticizing Trump from Parnell, who announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate on May 11:
On July 18, 2015, Parnell tweeted “.@realDonaldTrump's attacks against @SenJohnMcCain are the height of arrogance & show that he has no clue what our Vietnam POWs endured.”
On Feb. 28, 2016, Parnell quote tweeted an article from The Weekly Standard about Trump failing to disavow former KKK leader David Duke. Parnell wrote, “I suppose I should be surprised. But I’m not.”
On March 18, 2016, Parnell quote tweeted a Daily Caller tweet about a Trump adviser saying, “Get on the train or you’ll end up under the train,” and Parnell responded, “These kinds of threats make me want to derail the train. Unifiers don’t run over dissidents." (In June 2020, Parnell said he was deeply flattered and honored
to receive the endorsement from Trump for his congressional race.)
On Sept. 26, 2016, Parnell tweeted in apparent reference to Trump’s criticism of the Iraq War, “Ugh. I hate it when Trump says take the oil. I get what he means. But US troops are liberators & protectors. We aren't pirates.” Parnell served in combat in Afghanistan for the Army, earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
On Sept. 26, 2016, Parnell tweeted, “Trump needs to release his taxes. It’s an avoidable vulnerability." (On March 14, 2017, Parnell criticized MSNBC host Rachel Maddow for focusing too much coverage on Trump’s tax returns
, calling it “Maddow-Trump Tax madness.)
On Oct. 9, 2016, in an apparent reference to Trump’s Access Hollywood
Tape Scandal, in which a tape from 2005 was released of Trump saying he could sexually assault women, Parnell tweeted, “The only thing that surprises me is the fact that anyone is surprised that Trump said something vulgar over 10 years ago. … that wasn't the point of what I said at all. I'm not defending him or his words.”
Parnell’s opponents have been quick to point out his past criticism of Trump. Jeff Bartos, a businessman who's also running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, ran digital ads on Google after Parnell’s announcement
saying that Parnell "sided with liberals" and linked to Parnell’s 2016 tweet when he called for Trump to release his tax returns.
Parnell campaign spokesman Ian Prior responded to those ads, and attacked the Bartos campaign.
"Digging up old out-of-context tweets reeks of desperation. But what else would you expect from someone like Jeff Bartos who has personally donated to multiple Democrats who supported impeaching President Trump and removing him from office?" said Prior in a statement to Pittsburgh City Paper
Conor McGuinness, spokesman for the Bartos campaign, pushed back against Parnell, reiterated calls about Parnell’s former Trump criticism, and brought up other instances where Parnell “sided with liberals,” including Parnell’s past support of mail-in voting
. He said “frauds like Sean Parnell are what's wrong with politics."
"Glad to see Sean Parnell is admitting his support for Act 77, the disastrous legislation that cost President Trump the state of Pennsylvania and the Presidency, and agreeing that he sided with liberals in demanding Donald Trump release his tax returns,” said McGuinness. “Jeff Bartos has raised and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to elect pro-Trump Republicans. We'll gladly stack that up against Sean Parnell's effort to sabotage President Trump's re-election any day of the week.”
Even though a March poll from Franklin & Marshall College
shows that Pennsylvania Republicans are close to split between Trump allies and transitional Republicans (42% to 38% respectively), Republican politicians and candidates in the commonwealth appear to be sprinting to the right in order to be seen tied to Trump.
Democrats have pointed this out, and have also called out Parnell for his past opposition to Trump, saying it shows he is duplicitous.
“The headaches continue for the Pennsylvania GOP as sore loser Sean Parnell becomes the latest candidate to join their ‘super MAGA Trump’ primary. Buckle up as this collection of failed candidates spends the next eleven months running over each other to spread conspiracy theories and sell out Pennsylvania, all in an effort to secure Trump’s coveted endorsement,” said Pennsylvania Democratic Party spokesperson Jack Doyle in a statement on May 11.
And even now, Parnell is showcasing mixed messages, especially when encountering different audiences. During a press event for his campaign launch, when asked about his efforts to have mail-in votes discounted in the 2020 election, he told local Pittsburgh media that he didn’t “want to relitigate 2020.”
But less than two weeks later, Parnell appeared on far-right media personality and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast, and he “spoke warmly of a controversial Republican-driven review of ballots in Arizona, and backed a ‘forensic audit’ of the 2020 election in Pennsylvania,” according to WESA
. There is no evidence of wide-spread voter fraud in Arizona, Pennsylvania, or any U.S. state for the 2020 election.