Stewart finally issued a statement late Wednesday night saying he had “distanced” himself from Nehlen. In the past, Stewart had also promoted the birther conspiracy theory: “@TheDemocrats got cocky forging @BarackObama birth certificate,” Stewart tweeted in December. But he distanced himself from that conspiracy theory in a June 2 interview with TWS, saying: “I’ve never bought into that birther stuff.” He claimed his December 2017 tweet “was trying to demonstrate the point of how ridiculous the left is.” Asked if he rejects the alt-right, Stewart said: “Well, I don’t even know what it is. I mean, I don’t know. Somebody’s going to have to come up with a definition of what the alt-right is.”

Neither Stewart nor Freitas was expected to run a competitive race against Tim Kaine in Virginia in 2018, but the more controversial Stewart could hurt Republicans in competitive House races downballot. Stewart’s nomination is “probably not helpful for GOP chances of holding #VA02, #VA07, #VA10 & maybe #VA05 (near Freitas’s home),” tweeted the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman.