Utah Lawmaker Turns Bridge Collapse Into DEI Debate

Gubernatorial candidate Phil Lyman criticizes port of Baltimore commissioner, who offers DEI consulting
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 27, 2024 7:21 AM CDT
GOP Lawmaker Turns Bridge Collapse Into DEI Debate
In this Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, file photo, Republican Rep. Phil Lyman talks on the House floor at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

A GOP lawmaker running for governor of Utah blamed the deadly collapse of Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge on efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. In an apparent effort "to boost his gubernatorial campaign," Utah Rep. Phil Lyman took to X on Tuesday to attack Port of Baltimore Commissioner Karenthia Barber, a Black woman who owns a consulting firm offering "diversity, equity and inclusion audits," per the Salt Lake Tribune. The Young Conservative Federation had called attention to this, claiming Barber, a Baltimore native, "knows nothing about ports." "This is what happens when you have Governors who prioritize diversity over the wellbeing and security of citizens," added Lyman. The state lawmaker later claimed his team posted the comment without his authority.

His account had also reposted a user who backed Lyman, saying Barber had "no experience in marine law, ports or the industry." Barber's professional biography describes her as "a highly regarded consultant, strategist and speaker with experience in education, human resources and business" who's taught at the university level. She also founded "a consulting practice that provides leadership and workforce training, coaching, and diversity, equity and inclusion audits and consulting." The DEI debate was just one part of a misinformation mess on social media in the wake of the bridge collapse. Conspiracy theories suggesting Israel attacked the bridge or that the cargo ship that struck it acted intentionally spread from "verified" accounts on X, Axios reports. (The ship lost power, issued a mayday, and tried unsuccessfully to avoid the bridge.)

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