A Republican gubernatorial candidate in Oklahoma allegedly argued this week that those unable to support themselves whether they’re disabled, children or otherwise – should view euthanasia as an option rather than burden taxpayers through use of SNAP food assistance. Christopher Barnett – registered to run in this year’s Oklahoma gubernatorial election – told a commenter to his campaign’s Facebook page that “…why are we required to keep them up? Sorry but euthanasia is cheaper and doesn’t make everyone a slave to the Government.”
Though Facebook appears to have removed the comments, he still stands by them as he stated in another comment, “I stand by my comments.”
Who Is Christopher Barnett?
According to his campaign website, Christopher Barnett is a local business owner in Tulsa, Oklahoma who decided to run for office based on tax increases. In his biography, Barnett says:
Chris is a businessman, with ambition and understands he faces an uphill battle, but with your help, nothing is impossible. Your vote is all I ask for. I’m personally tired of paying more and more taxes and having very little left. It’s time to put money back into the pockets of tax payers and bring our states out of control budget under control.
While taxes and spending caps may be the impetus behind his run, free speech issues also appear to rank high on his list of priorities. On his campaign’s issues page, a lengthy section devoted to free speech states:
Chris is a free speech activist. In January of 2018, Chris was attending a court hearing and was illegally detained after the law firm of Hall Estill called in a false threat, working in conjunction with The University of Tulsa. Chris was attending a hearing where he had sued Tulsa Community College for violating the Oklahoma Open Records Act. The lawsuit is ongoing.
Chris responded to the illegal actions of Hall Estill, Johnathan Rogers, John Patrick Cremin and The University of Tulsa. Chris authorized his attorneys to file suit against the parties responsible for calling in this false threat because they did not like what Chris had to say. Within 24 hours, Chris’ attorneys filed suit against Johnathan Rogers, John Patrick Cremin, The Law Fir of Hall Estill and The University of Tulsa.
As if that wasn’t enough for this group of corrupt fools, one of their attorneys, John Lackey went on to ask the court for a gag order, but it was really a prior restraint. The Federal Court in Tulsa ruled in my favor and reaffirmed that we have free speech, even if The University of Tulsa and The Law firm of Hall Estill are Anti-American and don’t support it.
I’ve fought hard for free speech and I’ll continue to fight hard not only for myself, but for everyone. I would like to see those involved in calling in these false threats prosecuted.
The entire section reads like an angry blog post rather than a promise to protect constituent free speech. What’s more, the personal story (and potentially his campaign for office) may be connected to a set of legal issues involving harassment, lawsuits and two institutions of higher learning: the University of Tulsa and Tulsa Community College.
His recent alleged comments about SNAP program users do not appear connected to these incidents, however.
In one of several polls posted to his campaign’s Facebook page, Barnett asked, “Should a person be required to apply for 2 jobs a week if receiving Food stamps and take any job offered to them to gain employment and if they refuse, they lose their food stamps?” He offered to potential responses: (1) Yes, no jobs, no stamps and (2) No, free food stamps.
The question ties back to his taxes and spending views spread throughout his campaign website.
What has Barnett’s campaign in people’s crosshairs are comments made as a response to a question made asking about the disabled and children. Initially, someone asked, “Most receiving food stamps work, or are disabled. Some are elderly. And what about the children? What are your plans for them? Foster care? Factory work? Let em go hungry?”
Barnett responded, “The ones who are disabled and can’t work…why are we required to keep them up? Sorry but euthanasia is cheaper and doesn’t make everyone a slave to the Government.”
I firmly believe we should have assisted suicide in the US. I also ask the legitimate question of why should we have to keep up people who cannot contribute to society any longer? Obviously, I’m not saying the Government should put these people down, I’m just saying that we shouldn’t keep them up. If they can take care of themselves without Government assistance, great. If not, let them starve and die. Easy as that.
While those comments have been deleted, several others still remain active as of the writing of this article demonstrating Barnett’s mindset:
Unfortunately, these aren’t the only outlandish questions and views posted to his page.
Playing on Trump’s “America First” slogan, Barnett’s campaign slogan is “Oklahoma First.” The allusion to Trump’s slogan isn’t the only similarity between the two men: throughout his Facebook page, Barnett offers a host of unpopular and sometimes legally questionable positions, ideas and propositions.
From demonizing undocumented immigrants to instituting drug testing to access social safety net benefits (a practice that’s costly, ineffective, and potentially unconstitutional), Barnett appears to have views both outside the mainstream while coinciding with a good portion of what Trump’s GOP stands for.
That said, even given his litigious history and peculiar reasoning for entering the race outlined on his website, it’s not outside the realm of possibility this stunt is the work of an outside party.
Barnett Campaign Comments
We contacted the Barnett campaign via the email address listed on his Facebook page and inquired about the euthanasia comments posted to Facebook. We initially received the following response:
“I am sorry to say but the Facebook page along with the candidates personal Facebook profile and his spouses profile were compromised several days ago. “
We wrote back to clarify who we were speaking to, and learned it was Barnett’s spouse. We further inquired if his campaign had made any efforts to notify anyone of the breach from making an official announcement or press release to contacting Facebook and filing a police report. The Barnett campaign responded:
“We just published a statement on the website.
We have contacted Facebook.
No, we have not contacted law enforcement. “
During the writing of this article (subsequent to our email exchange), an addition was indeed added to the campaign website stating:
Facebook is at again. They are trying to sway another election. I have not had any access to my Facebook page for several days. When this took place, myself, nor my husband were even remotely on the internet or even our phones. We were celebrating mothers day, all day long with our family. Thank you Facebook. Facebook needs to have a dedicated team to help its victims who have been compromised and pay a special level of attention to political candidates because timing is everything. Facebook, are you going to pay for my continued security detail?
It is sickening what has happened to me running for office. My husband, nor myself have not been able to access Facebook and they have done nothing about it. We will not use Facebook any longer. To anyone that tries to make good on your threats to kill me… please don’t.
Who ever accessed our accounts did a great job at posting things I’ve said in the past, such as below:
Thereafter, a handful of paragraphs appear to be copy-and-pasted from Facebook statuses from the campaign webpage.
While the explanation could certainly be true, some things don’t add up.
For starters, having a gubernatorial candidate’s social media ‘hacked’ to promote abhorrent messaging should be reported to law enforcement – if not local police, the FBI. Especially in the post-2016 online world knowing what Russian hackers did and are capable of.
Moreover, the Barnett campaign made no mention of being hacked until being contacted by news media – no press releases, no mention of the breach on their website…nothing. The lack of urgency in deciding to notify potential voters about such a serious breach raises a lot of questions. This is especially perplexing given the Barnett campaign claims they’ve had no access to their Facebook page “for several days.”
What kind of gubernatorial campaign would silently allow several days to pass after a social media breach in which a third party made such abhorrent claims? What took them so long to come forward – and even then, only after the comments began gaining media attention?
Finally, there’s this:
When asked directly what the Barnett campaign’s actual, official position is on disabled, elderly and underage persons accessing food assistance benefits, this is how the campaign replied:
“We need to make sure Snap benefits has the funding it needs so people who need it dont [SIC] have to worry that one day the funding for the program might get cut. Chris wants to put salary caps in place on government workers who make over $100,000 a year. Chris has also stated that he will take a pay cut as governor to lead by example.”
At no point did the Barnett campaign actually address a direction question relating to the controversial remarks associate with their campaign .
Whether his Facebook page actually was hacked or the extremist comments were a backfired publicity stunt is still unknown.
[UPDATE – May 16, 2018]
After speaking with us yesterday, Chris Barnett conducted an interview with KFOR – Oklahoma News 4 where he expounded on the remarks his spouse initially relayed to us via email. Click through for the full interview.
Tim Peacock is the Managing Editor and founder of Peacock Panache and has worked as a civil rights advocate for over twenty years. During that time he’s worn several hats including leading on campus LGBT advocacy in the University of Missouri campus system, interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and volunteering at advocacy organizations. You can learn more about him at his personal website.