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 some criticism and some support for the city representative.
Armacost confirmed the photo was of him, taken recently while on a short visit to 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 decorates in the American flag colors along with two American flags and two handguns.
The photo was taken inside the Sequim Costco and posted on Facebook on May 3.
“I didn’t know we had paparazzi,” Armacost said in a phone interview Saturday, May 8. “I think we’re in a low in society (when people) spy on you in your personal time.”
Armacost said that if he had he to do over, he would not have worn the T-shirt.
“I regret I had the damn shirt on,” he said Saturday. “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 senator Kevin Van De Wege.
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 the flames.”
Armacost’s comments about QAnon at a Coffee With the Mayor session on KSQM in August 2020 similarly drew criticism, drawing national media attention and interviews, including CNN and most recently in Time magazine in mid-April.
“QAnon is perfect 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.
City council meeting
At the May 10 Sequim city council meeting, Armacost addressed the T-shirt after a few Sequim area residents made remarks in public comments about his negative impact on the community by wearing it.
Armacost said his jacket was dirty after working on a property, so he took it off before going into Costco.
“Unfortunately, I had no idea and was not even conscious of the fact of the T-shirt I put on that morning,” he said.
The mayor said he attended an earlier Alcoholics Anonymous meeting with the shirt on.
He said during the pandemic, there’s been a significant spike in suicides nationally and a rise in people turning back to alcohol locally resulting in deaths.
At AA meetings, he said people look to find common ground and that skulls, like the one on his shirt, are affiliated with Harley Davidson Motorcycles and say “we are all created equal.”
“In an AA meeting, there is no one who has a higher rank than the other,” he said. “We’re there to share the same common experience and how we learn to deal with addiction.”
“The balance of my intention when I put on that shirt at 5:30 a.m. was to make it easier for someone struggling with someone with addiction.”
Armacost said, “if I had been thinking I would have turned the shirt inside out.”
He apologized to those who were offended saying he came from an immigrant family, his grandfather was an Irish immigrant and his family are products of “the American Dream.”
“My experience is whenever I can lend a helping hand to a person that is struggling with addiction, I would do anything I can to help them,” Armacost said.
He reiterated he regrets living in a time with paparazzi looking for any opportunity to have a “gotcha moment.”
“If I had to do it again, I would not have put the shirt on,” Armacost said. “I am deeply sorry for those offended by it.”