CNN photojournalist Taka Yokoyama and Kyung Lah, senior national correspondent, interview Sequim mayor William Armacost after a Coffee with the Mayor session Thursday morning in downtown Sequim. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

CNN photojournalist Taka Yokoyama and Kyung Lah, senior national correspondent, interview Sequim mayor William Armacost after a Coffee with the Mayor session Thursday morning in downtown Sequim. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Armacost denies QAnon support

Sequim’s mayor tells CNN he never endorsed group

SEQUIM — Sequim Mayor William Armacost told a CNN reporter that he does not support QAnon.

Kyung Lah, a CNN senior national correspondent, asked Armacost if he backs his words from last August’s Coffee With the Mayor program that “QAnon is a truth movement.”

Armacost responded: “To make things perfectly clear, I’ve never endorsed or said I was a QAnon supporter.”

He said he encouraged people “to do research and to seek truth” because we are in an “information overload” and “media frenzy.”

CNN — an international news organization headquartered in Atlanta, Ga. — was working on a story about QAnon and its impact on Sequim.

The story is tentatively scheduled to air on a CNN evening programs, such as “Prime Time,” Friday night.

Armacost has declined to speak with reporters from the Peninsula Daily News and the Sequim Gazette.

”QAnon is not a truth movement,” Lah said. “It’s a conspiratorial movement that believes there’s a secret society that is violent. Do you support this movement?”

Armacost replied: “I do not.”

Lah interviewed Armacost outside of the KSQM 91.5 FM radio station on Thursday after he taped a session of “Coffee With the Mayor.” She also called in questions to the program as she waited outside.

Armacost, in answer to a question from a listener, directed people last August to seek out a video about QAnon that ended in campaigning for former President Donald Trump, then running for reelection. He has been seen wearing a pin commonly associated with QAnon during City Council meetings.

Armacost told Lah on Thursday that the media has misinterpreted his reference to QAnon and that “led to this year of regurgitating negative energy that doesn’t really meet anyone’s needs other than it fills a sound bite.

“There’s a handful that may have that feeling but I don’t think the populace feels that way,” he said.

QAnon is an anti-Semitic and unfounded conspiracy theory that says “the Democratic Party is run by a cabal of Satanic cannibal-pedophiles who will someday be arrested and executed by Donald Trump,” according to The Daily Beast, which recently published a story about a “QAnon coup” in Sequim.

Armacost’s beliefs have sparked other news coverage, such as the Daily Kos (“The creep of QAnon: A small Puget Sound town feels the political effects of authoritarian cult”).

Armacost told Lah that Coffee With the Mayor is for sharing information with the public.

“I regret in the past I expressed my views; again, it’s personal, but does not pertain to to my view as a business owner, council member or as mayor.”

When asked if QAnon had a role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol in Washington, D.C. — in which some were seen wearing QAnon clothing — Armacost said he cannot confirm or deny if one group is involved, and added, “with the integrity that I was raised with, you never deface a public building, you never deface a public official. You give them the respect that they have earned by taking the willingness to put their life on hold to serve others, I think.

“We need to get back to, ‘How can we be kinder to our fellow man and lift them up?’”

Lastly, Lah asked for his thoughts on his removal as mayor.

“We’re all entitled to our own opinion,” he said.

Lah interviewed others Wednesday and Thursday in Sequim.

Among them was Shenna Younger, a member of the Sequim Good Governance League, which supports City Manager Charlie Bush, who was recently directed to resign by Armacost and three other city council members, all appointees.

“I told them QAnon is a distraction from the good things that are happening,” she said.

“This is not indicative of who we are. When the pandemic first happened, and we faced a PPE shortage, a call went out and within 48 hours. We recruited 100 sewers of Sequim citizens and because of those efforts we sewed over 8,500 masks and 150 surgical gowns for our medical workers.

“That’s who we are. That’s what got our health care workers until the PPEs arrived. We’re kind and compassionate. This nonsense you’re seeing is a very small and isolated group.”

Armacost, a salon owner who was first appointed to the Sequim City Council and then elected when he ran unopposed, was selected by other council members in January 2020 to serve as mayor.

QAnon didn’t come up during his appointment or when he ran for election. However, Sequim residents noted his Facebook posts using QAnon rhetoric — often writing “WWG1WGA,” a reference to QAnon motto “Where we go one, we go all.”

A couple of weeks after promoting QAnon in his radio appearance, Armacost apologized in a joint City of Sequim press release with Bush.

“While I believe that people should fight for truth and freedom, it was inappropriate to respond to this question as mayor during a program designed to talk about City of Sequim issues,” he said in the Sept. 9 release,

“To date, as mayor I have kept my personal life separate from my professional life and, as a result, I will not comment as mayor on my personal social media presence.

Armacost has in recent city council meetings refused to answer questions about his QAnon beliefs.

________

Michael Dashiell is the editor, and Matthew Nash is a reporter, with the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].

Peninsula Daily News Executive Editor Leah Leach contributed to this story.

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