BEMIDJI -- Minnesota District 5 Sen. Justin Eichorn, R-Grand Rapids, received backlash this week for a video some found to be insensitive.
In a video posted in a since deleted Tweet on Tuesday, Eichorn made a direct appeal to Gov. Tim Walz to open up campgrounds while standing in front of several tents where homeless people were residing. In the video, Eichorn said if the tents shown in the video were possible, then resorts and campgrounds should also be open.
"We have a 'nice little tent city' set up here. Unfortunately, in Greater Minnesota, Gov. Walz has campgrounds shut down," said Eichorn in the video. "If you're OK with this, we should certainly be OK with our resorts and campgrounds being open. We can do it safely... By our nature, in northern Minnesota we're distanced. It's also unfortunate that this is how our homeless people have to live right now."
Before the tweet was deleted, it had reached eight retweets and nearly 240 replies. In a statement released later Tuesday, Eichorn said the video was his attempt to convince the governor to be aware of the economic situation caused by Walz's stay-at-home order. The order, meant to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, was recently extended from May 4 to May 18.
"The video may have missed the mark, but Gov. Walz's blanket extension of the stay-at-home order only exasperates the pain that my constituency feels," Eichorn said in the statement.
In a statement, Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chair Ken Martin condemned the video.
"Comparing people experiencing homelessness to campers is thoughtless and cruel, and Eichorn's push for an unsafe reopening would only serve to further spread the coronavirus across Greater Minnesota," Martin said.
The video was also criticized by Eichorn's 2020 election opponent Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht, who is also the DFL endorsed candidate for District 5. She said the video was done in poor taste.
"I thought it was insensitive and demeaning," Albrecht said. "It kind of gives northern Minnesota a bad name when the senator is so out of touch that he uses people who are homeless as a prop for a political video."
Charles Dolson, who had been seeking the DFL's endorsement for District 5, also provided a comment to the Pioneer, and said "we have a lot of needs in our district and I do not think being insensitive will help meet our needs."