Dead Celebrities are 'Druggies' and 'Tweakers,' Says Arizona Rep in Facebook Post

By Zachary Siegel 01/03/17

Kelly Townsend apologized, then doubled down on her insensitive remarks. 

Image: 
Arizona Representative Kelly Townsend
Arizona Representative Kelly Townsend Photo via YouTube

While Americans mourned the spate of celebrity deaths at the end of 2016, Republican Arizona Rep. Kelly Townsend took to Facebook to point out the reason why “people are dropping like flies.”

Townsend thinks it’s “because they were druggies.” At least that's what she wrote in a now-deleted post that was captured in the image above, posted on recovery advocate Ryan Hampton’s Facebook page

Townsend attempted to explain away the stigmatizing language in the post after she deleted it. 

“I am very much concerned when we have people who are idolized like they are right now,” she said, adding that she fears that when celebrities like Prince and George Michael—both of whom struggled with drug use at some point in their lives—are idolized, then young people may think drug use is “part of the recipe of becoming successful.” 

Townsend also said that people’s poor “life choices” are to blame for their addictions. 

A digital army of recovery advocates, who didn’t buy her explanation, immediately called out Townsend. “She needs to issue a public apology,” said Hampton, of the non-profit group Facing Addiction

Calling people names like “druggies,” “stoners” and “tweakers” adds to their shame and may discourage them from seeking treatment, Hampton continued. 

Kim Williams, who commented on Townsend’s post, said, “I truly hope that [Townsend’s] constituents let her know that this is unacceptable behavior.” 

Though Townsend said she was “happy” to remove the post, Hampton said he’s skeptical of her sincerity because she later doubled down on her remarks. 

“Buck up buttercup,” Townsend wrote, “and realize that if you put that pipe to your mouth, you are no longer an idol to me. However, this is a convenient hit by someone looking to accuse a Republican.”

Hampton told Pinal Central that some of the most ardent recovery advocates are members of the Republican Party, and agreed that it’s “categorically wrong” if people called her out because she is a conservative. 

Hampton, who applauded everyone who put pressure on Townsend, wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday: “We won't accept that kind of language EVER, that's unbecoming of someone holding the public trust. Together, WE CAN CHANGE THE CONVERSATION!” 

Townsend did not respond to Hampton’s calls, he told Pinal Central

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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