Baltimore bridge collapse caused by DEI efforts, Utah Rep. Phil Lyman says

Lyman, who is also running for Utah governor, later said his social media team had posted the comment without his approval. He also took responsibility for the post.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, running for Utah governor, talks to delegates before the Davis County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner in Layton, on Saturday, February. 24, 2024.

Phil Lyman, a Utah Republican lawmaker and candidate for governor, quickly used Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse to boost his gubernatorial campaign by blaming the accident on efforts to make workplaces more diverse.

He later said he had not authorized the comment before it was posted by his social media team.

A cargo ship reportedly lost control and rammed into a support structure for the bridge early Tuesday morning, destroying the structure. As rescue crews were searching for possible victims, Lyman blamed the tragedy on the culture wars over diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

Lyman was responding to a post from the Young Conservative Federation attacking Port of Baltimore Commissioner Karenthia Barber, a Black woman who, according to her professional biography, owns a consulting firm that includes “diversity, equity and inclusion audits and consulting.”

“This is what happens when you have Governors who prioritize diversity over the wellbeing [sic] and security of citizens,” Lyman posted Tuesday morning.

In a subsequent post, Lyman added, “DEI=DIE.”

While Lyman did not respond to a request to explain to post ahead of the publication of this story, he later returned a phone call from The Salt Lake Tribune.

“It was not our best moment,” Lyman said. “The post was a knee-jerk reaction to some of the things others were putting out there.”

Lyman struggled to explain why he believed that DEI played a hand in the tragedy before saying he did not author the posts. He said his social media team often posts without his approval, which is what happened Tuesday morning.

“I prefer a dignified approach and sometimes the people who handle the social media are more provocative than what I’m comfortable with,” Lyman said.

Lyman took full responsibility for the posts and did not feel he needed to apologize for politicizing the tragedy. He does not plan to remove them.

Baltimore officials said early Tuesday morning that they were searching for victims of the collapse. The Baltimore Banner reported that members of a road repair crew may have fallen off the bridge into the water.

“We are still very much in an active search and rescue posture at this point, and we will continue to be for some time. We have a large area that we have to search,” said Baltimore Fire Chief James Wallace according to The Baltimore Banner.

Bridge experts say no bridge could withstand being hit by a ship the size of the vessel responsible for Tuesday’s disaster, The Washington Post reported.

(Mark Schiefelbein | AP) A container ship rests against wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, as seen from Pasadena, Md. The ship rammed into the major bridge in Baltimore early Tuesday, causing it to collapse in a matter of seconds and creating a terrifying scene as several vehicles plunged into the chilly river below.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, whom Lyman is challenging for the GOP nomination this year, responded soberly to news of the bridge collapse.

“Terrible news out of Maryland this morning,” Cox posted. “Our prayers are with everyone affected by this tragedy.”

Lyman is not the only Republican crassly blaming the calamity on Democrats or liberal politics. Former Florida State Rep. Anthony Sabatini posted a video of the bridge collapsing with the caption, “DEI did this.”

Fox Business Host Maria Bartoromo tried to link the bridge disaster to the President Joe Biden administration’s border policy. At the same time, American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp said “drug-addled” workers and coronavirus lockdowns were to blame. Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones suggested the accident was due to a cyber attack and may signal the start of World War III.

Update, 4:20 p.m. • After this story was published, Rep. Phil Lyman said he took responsibility for the post and that it had been published by his social media team without his approval.