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Hear it: Va. lawmaker defends Syria’s president in lengthy speech

State Sen. Richard Black, R-Loudon, gestures during debate on a bill that would deny in-state tuition to certain legal immigrants, during the Senate session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. The bill failed to pass. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

WASHINGTON — A Republican lawmaker’s defense of Syrian President Bashar Assad from the floor of the Virginia Senate has drawn criticism from Democrats.

State Sen. Richard H. Black said in his 20-minute speech Wednesday that Assad might have been framed for a suspected chemical attack last weekend on a rebel-held town near Damascus, which reports say killed at least 40 people.

Black said, “It is not entirely clear that there was an attack.”

Previously, Black voiced support for Assad, viewing him as a buffer against Islamic extremism. Black flew to Damascus for a sit-down with Assad in 2016.

“What earthly explanation would President Assad have for firing poison gas?” Black asked during his speech.

The Democratic Party of Virginia criticized the Loudoun Republican for using a special session on Medicaid to “mock Assad’s latest chemical atrocity as a ‘false flag’ attack,” calling Assad a “murderous dictator.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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