Economy 28-03-2024 13:02 12 Views

Day after bridge collapse, Republicans are blaming Democrats, floating unfounded and sometimes racist theories


A previous version of this article misspelled the last name of a member of the Baltimore City Republican Central Committee. He is Dennis Betzel, not Dennis Bentzel. The article has been corrected.

Following Tuesday’s deadly collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, some Republican officials, candidates and right-wing pundits attempted to connect the tragedy to some of their most frequent political targets: diversity initiatives, illegal immigration, coronavirus lockdowns and the Biden administration. And early reaction to the incident also provided fresh ground for unfounded theories that the collapse was not an accident at all.

The collapse along a key East Coast corridor early Tuesday sent at least eight people into the Patapsco River. The remains of two people have been recovered, and four others have been presumed dead. They were immigrant construction workers making bridge repairs at the time of the collapse.

Since the incident, several sitting Republican officials have sought to tie the Biden administration to the collapse of the nearly 50-year-old bridge.

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) told Newsmax on Tuesday that the government is focusing on spending federal funds on “waste,” “when it could be going to things that are the government’s purpose, just like this.”

“We’re not spending it on roads and bridges. Look at the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that was done a couple of years ago that the left hails as this massive success. But it was mostly Green New Deal, actually, in that bill,” Mace said, referencing the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law by President Biden.

Republicans previously criticized Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg as not visiting East Palestine, Ohio, quickly enough after a toxic train derailment there last year. But after the secretary visited Baltimore on the day of the bridge collapse, Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.) suggested without evidence that the visit was politically motivated and that Buttigieg was preoccupied with diversity policies.

“Well, this is an election year, so he probably, if it was two years ago might have been a month before he went at all,” Van Drew told Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo on Wednesday. “He’s worried too much about pronouns, worried too much about DEI policies, worried too much about being the cool kid on the block. … I’m disappointed in the job that he does.”

Along with Van Drew, conservative political candidates and right-wing media personalities have turned to blaming diversity, equity and inclusion policies — a loosely defined term broadly used to refer to efforts to diversify the workforce and academia — for the collapse. It’s the latest in a series of issues that the right has blamed on DEI.

Utah state Rep. Phil Lyman (R) blamed DEI policies for the bridge collapse. The Utah gubernatorial candidate running against Gov. Spencer Cox (R) shared a post online attacking Port of Baltimore Commissioner Karenthia Barber, a Black woman whose biography says she owns a consulting practice that takes on work related to DEI. Responding to the post about Barber’s background, Lyman wrote on X on Tuesday morning that “this is what happens when you have Governors who prioritize diversity over the wellbeing and security of citizens.” In a subsequent post referencing the collision, he said: “DEI = DIE.”

Lyman told the Salt Lake Tribune later Tuesday that he had not authorized the comments before they were posted by his team, saying the post about Barber “was not our best moment” and that it “was a knee-jerk reaction to some of the things others were putting out there.”

Anthony Sabatini, a Florida congressional candidate, also blamed DEI for the bridge collapse in a post on X the morning of the collapse.

Maryland officials have repeatedly said that there is no credible evidence linking the collapse to terrorism and that the evidence points to the collision being an accident. But Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a far-right member of Congress who has promoted baseless and debunked claims, took to X on Tuesday to question whether the collision was “an intentional attack.”

Popular far-right social media accounts and right-wing media personalities, including some with close ties to former president Donald Trump and Republicans in office, have similarly sought to link what they see as liberal policies to the Baltimore incident. Some accounts even turned to racist tropes about Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott (D), which have been shared thousands of times.

In an interview with Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) on Tuesday morning, Bartiromo, the Fox Business Network host, attempted to connect the incident to broader questions about “the potential for wrongdoing or the potential for foul play given the wide-open border.” And also that morning, Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, discussed his concerns about an unqualified, “drug-addled” workforce hamstrung by covid lockdowns.

“I’m one of these people that believes we’ve never fully come out of all the lockdowns and the covid issues. … I’m no expert on what’s going on in the seas, but all I would say is that if you talk to employers in America they’ll tell you that filling slots with employees who aren’t drug-addled is a very huge problem. So I’m making no specific charges here, because we don’t know. … We have to kind of wake up as a country and deal with the fact that we have too many people who aren’t ready to do the job,” Schlapp said on Newsmax.

Maryland Republicans have sought to send a more unifying message in response to the tragedy.

The Baltimore City Republican Party in a statement on Tuesday vowed to “stand with” Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) in what they called “the biggest challenge of his term of office.”

Dennis Betzel, the second vice chair of the Baltimore City Republican Central Committee, emphasized that at the end of the day, “six people lost their lives.”

“That’s the beginning and the end of that conversation. I don’t care what political bent you are,” he added.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post
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