After facing public backlash for mailing out flyers that depicted her opponent, Sarah Perry, as a puppet controlled by “socialists” of color, King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert has made an apology about the imagery and rhetoric used by her campaign.
The flyer — which many have called divisive and racist — included Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vice President Kamala Harris, Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant and Lambert’s King County Council colleague Girmay Zahilay, who was depicted as controlling the strings connected to Perry’s back like a puppet.
On Twitter, Zahilay accused the poster of intentionally using his image as the only county councilmember of color to incite fear among East King County voters.
“Painting the Black elected official with a foreign sounding name as an enemy to suburban and rural values is nothing new,” Zahilay tweeted in response to the flyer. He also questioned why his image was used as the puppeteer in the flyer when he was one of six other King County Council members who also endorsed Lambert’s opponent.
When asked during an interview with King 5 News if the flyer intended to use Zahilay’s image as the only Black official on the council to “fearmonger,” Lambert said: “Preposterous. I do a lot of work in Africa, so if I had something against him because of his color, I wouldn’t be doing the work I do in Africa.”
Since the backlash surrounding the flyer began around Oct. 7, Lambert’s King County Council peers and King County Executive Dow Constantine condemned the rhetoric used in the flyer and urged Lambert to publicly apologize.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who endorsed Perry, used Twitter to criticize Lambert’s donors and demanded that The Seattle Times rescind their original endorsement of Lambert. On Oct. 7, The Seattle Times editorial board flipped their endorsement away from Lambert, calling her green light of the political literature “a serious lack of judgment.”
Initially, Lambert doubled down on the imagery and rhetoric used in the political mailer, claiming in a Facebook post on her campaign’s page that her opponent was “handpicked” by political extremists in Seattle to support their agenda that will bring more crime and homelessness to East King County neighborhoods.
“I will not back down because the future of the Eastside is too important,” Lambert wrote.
However, she would seem to back down only hours later on Oct. 8, as she deleted that post and instead posted a public apology.
“I need to apologize for the harm that the flyer has caused to Councilmember Zahilay, my colleagues, the public I have long worked for and appreciate and to my family,” according to the post. “My dedication and heart are not to hurt, but to serve. This message is certainly not what was intended. I have terminated my consultant’s contract and look forward to moving ahead in a more positive direction. I want to continue to focus on the good ahead as well as the great work we have done together over the last twenty years. Again, I am very sorry.”
Two of Lambert’s only endorsers on the King County Council — Councilmembers Reagan Dunn and Pete von Reichbauer — issued a joint statement in support of Lambert’s apology:
“The campaign piece is both offensive and inappropriate. Today we asked our colleague to publicly apologize so that the King County Council can refocus on working for the people we serve. We believe that elected leaders must do everything in their power to fight racism — that includes political speech. It was right of her to issue an apology and it is an important step forward.”