The Republican candidate for governor in Washington, Tim Eyman, repeatedly invoked the image of George Floyd’s death while attempting to argue that the state should lift its coronavirus-related public health restrictions.
Speaking in a Facebook live video posted over the weekend, Eyman said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) “has his knee on the neck” of residents in the state who “he deems non-essential.” Eyman also said the remarks in an appearance in the city of Pasco on Tuesday.
On Thursday, he did it again, several times, posting a 20-minute video embedded in a lengthy fundraising email.
“On Facebook live this weekend and also in Pasco on Tuesday, I said that. I'm saying it again today. I'm going to keep saying it. Because it's true.”
Eyman’s comments represent one of the more crass political usages of Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer to date. And they come right as protests spread across the country demanding an end to systemic racism in the U.S. criminal justice system. The white police officer in the Floyd case has been charged with second degree murder for forcing his knee against Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes. Three other police officers involved face charges of aiding and abetting murder.
Eyman was criticized locally for using the imagery of Floyd’s death for the purposes of pushing an end to public health restrictions related to the COVID pandemic. But when asked if he would apologize, Eyman did not walk back his comments, but instead said, “Nothing disgusts me more than when government officials abuse their power and cost people their lives. Jay Inslee has inflicted devastation on millions of people he deemed non-essential. I hear from them every day.”
Eyman also attempted to compare the pain felt over Inslee’s policy agenda with police brutality towards Floyd. “People are dying. People are suffering. People are crying out for help and Inslee calls them heartless. George Floyd was killed and were there not a camera to record it, then his passing would have gone unnoticed. I refuse to let Jay Inslee get away with inflicting this much pain and suffering upon so many people without the same justified outrage that we all feel for George Floyd.”
Asked by The Daily Beast if Eyman stands by his initial remarks and would like to comment further, a spokesperson for his campaign pointed to Eyman’s fundraising email pitch against Inslee, before adding an additional comment.
“With all the attention on the unnecessary killing of George Floyd, Tim appreciates you helping him also shine a spotlight on those suffering under Jay Inslee's devastating edicts, many of whom will lose their lives to suicide, drug abuse and delayed medical treatment. They will never have their stories told. It's courageous of you to break with much of the media and help your readers consider those silently suffering,” the spokesperson said.
Eyman is one of several candidates running in the Republican primary to be held on Aug. 4. He announced his bid to unseat Inslee on May 14. Seattle’s King5 News noted that he has previously been sued by Washington’s attorney general over campaign finance violations, and according to the outlet, he has been accused of “stealing an office chair from a Thurston County store, before settling that charge with a fine.”