Editor’s note: A version of this story will appear in the next Sequim Gazette. – MD
Comments from Sequim mayor William Armacost about his political beliefs in recent months have garnered the attention from multiple news outlets far from city limits.
On Thursday morning, a crew from CNN — the international news organization headquartered in Atlanta, Ga. — interviewed Armacost following a Coffee With the Mayor session at KSQM 91.5 FM.
Armacost’s beliefs are also the subject of various national and regional news outlets including The Daily Beast (“Mayor Aims to Turn Small Town Into QAnon, USA”) and Daily Kos (“The creep of QAnon: A small Puget Sound town feels the political effects of authoritarian cult”).
CNN’s segment was tentatively scheduled to air on Friday night’s “Anderson Cooper 360.”
Reporter Kyung Lah, a CNN senior national correspondent, called into the program to ask questions before interviewing him outside the radio station.
She 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 went on to say that he encouraged people “to do research and to seek truth” because we are in an “information overload” and “media frenzy.”
Lah continued to say that Armacost directed people last August to seek out a video that is “conspiratorial” in nature.
“QAnon is not a truth movement. It’s a conspiratorial movement that believes there’s a secret society that is violent. Do you support this movement?” Lah asked.
Armacost replied, “I do not.”
He added that Coffee With the Mayor is about 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.”
Lastly, Lah asked on his thoughts he should be removed as mayor.
“We’re all entitled to our own opinion,” he said.
In his interview outside KSQM, Armacost told Lah that the media has misinterpreted his reference on QAnon “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.
When asked if QAnon had a role in the Jan. 6 attack in Washington, D.C., Armacost said he cannot confirm or deny if one group is involved, but said, “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?’”
Lah spent Wednesday and Thursday interviewing locals for CNN’s tentative piece.
Shenna Younger, a member of the Sequim Good Governance League, was one of the locals they spoke with for the program after being reached through Facebook.
Younger’s group supports city manager Charlie Bush, who was recently asked to resign by Armacost and three other city councilors.
“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 and Sequim councilmember, was selected by other council members in January 2020 to his mayor position, and while his support for QAnon didn’t come up during his appointment or when he ran for his council seat, Sequim residents noted his Facebook posts using QAnon rhetoric — often writing “WWG1WGA,” a reference to QAnon motto “Where we go one, we go all.”
The Sequim mayor explained his support for the controversial QAnon theory in an Aug. 27 radio interview, calling it a “movement that encourages you to think for yourself.”
In response to a question from a listener, Armacost said, “If you remove Q from that equation, it’s patriots from all over the world fighting for humanity, truth, freedom and saving children and others from human traffic — exposing the evil and corruption of the last century in hopes of leaving a better future for our children and grandchildren.”
A couple of weeks after promoting QAnon in his radio appearance, Armacost apologized for promoting QAnon in the radio show in a joint City of Sequim press release with Bush.
Armacost said in the Sept. 9 press 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.
“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.”
“Any responses to questions reflecting the personal opinion of the mayor do not reflect policy positions of the Sequim City Council or the organization,” Bush said in the Sept. 9 statement.
Armacost has in recent city council meetings refused to answer questions about his QAnon beliefs.
QAnon began in 2017 and is traced back to an anonymous online persona claiming to be a government insider seeking to expose the “deep state” allegedly working against then-President Donald Trump. Media reports describe QAnon claims that public figures and institutions are secretly involved with child trafficking and civil unrest, and that President Trump has a secret plan to bring this group to justice.
At least 11 candidates seeking seats in the U.S. House of Representatives in the November election had expressed belief in or support for QAnon. Two of them — Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) — won House seats.
The movement gained further attention when on Jan. 6, individuals donning QAnon clothing violently broke into the U.S. Capitol.
KSQM leaders said Thursday’s program generated the most calls and emails they’ve received about one subject.