SEQUIM — A photo of Sequim Mayor William Armacost wearing a T-shirt with a profanity on it made the rounds on social media last week, prompting both criticism and support for the city representative.
Armacost confirmed the photo was of him, taken recently while shopping at Costco.
The shirt reads: “This is the USA — We Eat Meat — We Drink Beer — We Own Guns — We Speak English — We Love Freedom — If you do not like that get the f*** out.” The shirt also features a skull decorated with the U.S. flag’s colors along with two U.S. flags and two handguns.
The photo was taken inside the Sequim Costco and posted on Facebook on May 3. It is not known who took the photo although it has appeared on a variety of Facebook sites and prompted letters to the editor to the Peninsula Daily News and the Sequim Gazette.
“I didn’t know we had paparazzi,” Armacost said in a phone interview Saturday. “I think we’re in a low in society (when people) spy on you in your personal time.
“Would I do it over? Absolutely. I regret I had the damn shirt on. I didn’t think about the shirt I had on for a 10-minute run into Costco.”
Among those sharing the post online was state Sen. Kevin Van De Wege of Sequim.
A posting on KONP’s Facebook feed, since taken down, drew hundreds of comments. Armacost noted that many of those comments were in support of him wearing the shirt.
Armacost said the photo and corresponding criticism is spurred on by a group of locals in town who are jumping at the chance to levy negativity toward him. In recent weeks, a number of Sequim citizens have called on Armacost to step down (along with councilor Mike Pence for what they see are blatant discrepancies on Pence’s resume).
“I’m not going to step down from anyone’s attempt to shame me. I’m going to uphold constitutional rights that I have,” Armacost said. “I’m not going to give in to a few goons … who keep fanning the flames.”
Armacost’s comments urging listeners to watch a video about QAnon at a Coffee With the Mayor session on KSQM in August drew similar criticism, as well as national media attention and interviews, including CNN and most recently in Time magazine in mid-April.
“QAnon is perfect as an example. I made it clear, I never supported it, I’m not a member. I simply suggested people take a look (at the information),” Armacost said Saturday.
“We’re in America. We have freedom of speech … (and) I have not stepped up to the role of public servant to do anything but preserve those rights for my grandchildren.”
Armacost said he estimates he’s lost about $40,000 in business from the negative press (Armacost owns a downtown Sequim salon).
“Obviously the hate component (is alive); we used to have a healthy debate,” Armacost said.
Michael Dashiell is the editor of 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 him at [email protected]