Sen. Justin Eichorn (R-Grand Rapids) tried sending a message to Gov. Tim Walz Tuesday afternoon.
The senator uploaded a short video to Twitter, a clip featuring him standing outside on what looks like a beautiful day—and, if you squint, some blurry-looking tents set up in the background.
“We’re working hard again today in St. Paul,” Eichorn begins. “And as you can see behind me today, we’ve got a nice little tent city set up here. Unfortunately, in greater Minnesota, Governor Walz has campgrounds shut down.”
Eichorn’s referring to the statewide order keeping these venues—along with places like restaurants, bars, and libraries—closed to the public in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Now, you may be wondering to yourself: “Did he just compare being homeless and living in a tent on the side of the road to… camping? Like, for fun? Because surely those are not two things a reasonable human being would equate in order to make a point.”
Reader? He did.
You can watch the video, which Eichorn soon took down under the crushing weight of instant criticism, here:
.@SenatorEichorn just deleted this incredibly insensitive video where he compares homeless Minnesotans to campers & pushes for an premature and unsafe reopening of MN.— Minnesota DFL Party (@MinnesotaDFL) May 5, 2020
Justin doesn't want his constituents to see this video, so please don't retweet it and spread the word. #mnleg pic.twitter.com/MARblCzjyH
Eichorn, who works at an outdoor store that's been in his family for generations, goes on to ask Walz to reopen northern Minnesota’s campgrounds, saying it can be done safely.
“If you’re okay with this,” he said, gesturing over his shoulder to the encampment, “you should certainly be okay with our resorts in greater Minnesota.”
Lest you be concerned that Eichorn may not actually understand that the people in the tents are, in fact, homeless, and not hanging out there for recreation, don’t worry. Near the end of the video, he does throw in a line about how it’s “also unfortunate this is how our homeless people have to live right now.”
Social media took this message in and reacted pretty much the way you would expect.
“Ghoulish,” one commenter quipped.
“Fucking ridiculous,” another added.
“And yeah yeah real bummer homeless have to live like this but CAMPING!” a third threw in.
Though he tried deleting it, Eichorn's video was saved and reposted by various Twitter users, and they’re certainly not letting him forget about it anytime soon.
hey remember that extremely gross camping tweet you did earlier— Zach (@floyding) May 5, 2020
Eichorn later sent a statement about the video to the Star Tribune, explaining he was just trying to convince the governor to “take heed of the dismal economic conditions” people in northern Minnesota, who rely on revenue from “tourism, timber, and taconite,” are facing.
“The video may have missed the mark,” Eichorn said. “But Governor Walz’s blanket extension of the stay-at-home order only exasperates [sic] the pain that my constituency feels.”
Minnesota’s homeless residents are some of the most at-risk for contracting COVID-19. Hundreds of the most vulnerable—due to their age or their underlying health conditions—have been moved to various hotels to prevent the spread of the disease through shelters. According to the Star Tribune, some 41 shelter residents across the state have still tested positive for the disease.
As fears about sickness lurking in shelters spreads, more and more homeless people are choosing outdoor encampments as a way to stay (relatively) safe from exposure. We're not sure where they could go to hide out from Justin Eichorn's cruel idiocy.