Alaska State Rep. David Eastman (R), an Oath Keeper who attended the Stop the Steal rally on Jan. 6, sparked outrage on Monday when he asked whether there could be economic benefits to the deaths of abused children.
Eastman made the befuddling remarks during a state House Judiciary Committee hearing this week that focused on how adverse childhood experiences, like physical or sexual abuse, can negatively affect an individual throughout their life. During the hearing, a representative from the Alaska Children’s Trust delivered a policy briefing to legislators focused on the fact that fatal child abuse and neglect can cost the family and broader society over time an estimated $1.5 million in health care expenses and potential lifetime earnings.
When it was his turn for questioning Eastman used data from the policy brief to claim that the death of an abused child could be “cost savings” for the government.
“It can be argued, periodically, that it’s actually a cost savings because that child is not going to need any of those government services that they might otherwise be entitled to receive and need based on growing up in this type of environment,” he said.
“Can you say that again? Did you say, ‘a benefit for society?’” Trevor Storrs, president and CEO of the Alaska Children’s Trust asked in response to Eastman’s question.
“I’m not even sure how to answer that,” he said, adding the loss of a child is “unmeasurable” to a family.
It’s not the first time Eastman has come under fire for making outlandish and offensive remarks. And the state lawmaker’s very position in elected office has come under scrutiny. A former constituent filed a lawsuit after the Jan. 6 insurrection arguing that Eastman’s membership in the far right Oath Keepers group made him ineligible to hold office in Alaska. There were some indications that he might be booted from office back in September, but ultimately a judge ruled in his favor, allowing him to keep his position in the state House.
State Rep. Cliff Groh (D) said he was “disturbed” by Eastman’s line of questioning, according to Anchorage Daily News. His Republican colleagues aren’t thrilled with the remarks either.
“I wished that he asked questions with a little bit more sensitivity to the listeners and how they’re perceived, and I can have that conversation,” Republican Rep. Sarah Vance, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, told the Daily News. “But he’s there on his own accord and only represents himself.”
Correction: This article initially misstated Eastman’s status with the Oath Keepers. He is a lifetime member. TPM regrets this error.