GOP Senate candidate J.D. Vance defended his online rhetoric as evidence of his "realness."
"I think it's important for our politicians to have a sense of humor," Vance told a local reporter.
Vance publicly criticized Donald Trump's divisive rhetoric during the 2016 presidential election.
The Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance dismissed criticism of his controversial online rhetoric and said it was an attempt at comedy and "realness," despite his past criticism of former President Donald Trump's crude language.
Vance, whose bestselling memoir, "Hillbilly Elegy," won him widespread attention in 2016, told a Spectrum News reporter at a campaign event Monday that voters should expect politicians to be "real people" and have a "sense of humor."
"People may not always agree with my rhetoric, but, I think, unfortunately, our country is kind of a joke," Vance, whose campaign has been bankrolled by the Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, said. "And we should be able to tell jokes about it."
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The reporter referenced Vance's October tweet urging Twitter to let Trump back on the platform so he could weigh in on the fatal shooting on the set of actor Alec Baldwin's movie "Rust." Baldwin spent years impersonating Trump on "Saturday Night Live," much to Trump's chagrin.
Vance told Spectrum News he wasn't the only person who wanted Trump to publicly comment on the tragedy on Baldwin's set.
"Every single person I knew was joking about what would Donald Trump say if he was on Twitter," Vance said. "So I think the idea that we can't have somewhat offensive humor sometimes from our politicians is basically just asking us to have fake politicians all the time."
While Vance's Baldwin tweet attracted particularly widespread condemnation, the candidate has increasingly embraced more controversial rhetoric, using terms such as "degenerate liberals" and "neurotic lunatics" to describe his opponents online.
Ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Vance publicly took issue with Trump's inflammatory rhetoric, tweeting that he found Trump "reprehensible" and that "God wants better of us." He's since said he was "wrong about" Trump and deleted many of his tweets criticizing him.
Vance said on Monday that "somewhat offensive humor" shouldn't be off limits for politicians.
"Maybe it turns some people off, but I think the realness turns more people on," he said.
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