Father of fentanyl victim slams Marjorie Taylor Greene for heckling daughter’s story at State of the Union
Jhe father of a 20-year-old woman who died of a fentanyl overdose says Marjorie Taylor Greene ‘crossed the line’ when she challenged President Joe Biden by telling his daughter’s story in the state of The union.
Doug Griffin said The Independent that he found it “really mean” when the controversial GOP congresswoman interrupted the president’s speech during what should have been a “moment of reverence.”
“I was surprised because it was the only time in the whole speech where he was heckled in that way,” he said.
“It was really unpleasant in what was a period of reverence. I think she crossed the line.
McCarthy silences lawmaker for interrupting Biden’s tribute to fentanyl victim
Mr Griffin, a Republican, said the outburst highlighted the “constant battle” to get Republicans and Democrats to work together to tackle the opioid crisis – as he urged lawmakers to stop the treat as a partisan issue.
“It’s a constant battle between the far left and the far right – a struggle to be able to do anything,” he said.
“And I think that was the perfect example of that when she broke in there. Now is not the time or the place to do that.
“And I’m a Republican – but the drug issue is not a partisan issue.”
Mr Griffin’s daughter Courtney – a talented musician who dreamed of moving to Hawaii – was just 20 when she died of a fentanyl overdose in September 2014.
Since her death, Mr Griffin has fought to raise awareness of the stigma of substance abuse and called for better access to treatment services for substance use disorders.
On Tuesday evening, Mr. Griffin and his wife Pam attended the State of the Union as guests of First Lady Jill Biden, where Mr. Biden shared Courtney’s story with members of the House and of the Senate – as well as with millions of viewers across America. .
“We are joined tonight by a father named Doug from Newton, New Hampshire. He wrote a letter to my wife Jill and me too about his brave daughter Courtney. Contagious laughter. His sister’s best friend,” said the president.
“He shared a story all too familiar to millions of Americans and many of you in the audience. Courtney discovered the pills in high school. It escalated into addiction and eventually her death from a fentanyl overdose. She was only 20 years old.
“Describing the past eight years without her, Doug said: ‘There’s no worse pain.
“Yet their family turned pain into purpose, working to end the stigma and change the laws. He told us that he wanted to “start a journey towards the recovery of America”.
“Doug, we are with you. Fentanyl kills over 70,000 Americans a year.
At that point, Ms Greene – who made repeated outbursts during the speech – and several others began heckling the president.
The Georgian MP could be heard shouting: “It’s from China!”
Another legislator chimed in: “It’s your fault!”
Mr Griffin was unresponsive to the disturbance at the time, with the camera panning to show him sitting solemnly in the gallery.
But House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was seen silencing members of his own party.
Mr. Griffin said The Independent that the interruption “took me away”.
“At that time he was trying to tell his story and get the story answered and [Ms Greene] broke the momentum of that moment,” he said.
“I came a long way to get my wife and I to be there to hear it and she crossed the line and broke the momentum of the minute.”
For Mr. Griffin, it was a big moment to be invited to the State of the Union and for Mr. Biden to use part of his major annual speech to talk about his daughter and the fentanyl crisis.
It’s something he’s pushed the government to do more to tackle since Courtney’s death in 2014.
As Mr Biden mentioned, Mr Griffin had written to the president two years ago – and so he was “surprised” when an invitation came this year.
“It must have been in the back of their minds this whole time,” he said.
“Courtney’s story has been told in Congress before, but this is the first time a president has told it.”
He said he knew his daughter would have been ‘proud’.
From an early age, Mr Griffin said Courtney always had the same dream in life.
“Since she was four, she said she wanted to be Hawaiian,” he laughed. “She always had the same answer.”
The family traveled a lot and she was in a group.
But in high school, Courtney first took drugs and she quickly became addicted to heroin.
Mr Griffin said his daughter fought her addiction and joined the Marines ‘to get away from drugs’.
“She was just a little thing, five foot one, at that boot camp and getting by, then on the entrance exam, a urine sample came back positive for marijuana and they threw it away,” he said.
“She was finally on her way and she loved the discipline. She got out and she crashed because she felt like she had failed, like she was worthless.
Courtney then applied to college — only one: the University of Hawaii.
Mr Griffin said she was accepted but because she was still struggling with addiction at the time, she did not go.
Courtney really wanted to get help and checked herself into a treatment center in 2014. But when the health insurance company refused to cover the treatment, she had no choice but to leave.
“They told us it was not a matter of life and death,” Mr Griffin said.
“In 2014, if the world knew you were on drugs, you were treated like a junkie and treated with less respect.”
Courtney died a month later.
The fact that Mr. Biden addresses the fentanyl crisis in Tuesday’s speech shows that his administration is now “trying” to address the problem, Mr. Griffin said.
“I think he’s really trying. I don’t think the average person realizes the depth of the problem and I think his administration is aware of it,” he said.
Mr. Griffin would like to see the government spend more money on core programs.
State of the Union 2023: Key moments from this year’s speech
“The money has to get to the grassroots people,” he said.
“Millions of funding goes to well vetted agencies and yet most of the critical work is done by non-profit organizations that have boots on the ground and I wish we could get more funding up to that level .”
For him, the key areas to fight against the epidemic are: education and prevention.
“We have to start early. There’s a lot of talk about people once they’re addicted to drugs but let’s go ahead and educate people,” he said.
“People are driven to drugs in the first place to feel normal or because they are being bullied…”
Mr Griffin believes his daughter may still be alive if he and his family knew more about drug addiction back then.
“We lose people because people aren’t educated about it,” he said.
“I think if I had known then what I’m doing now, I think I could have saved his life.”
He added: “I never wanted her to be defined by her addiction – she was an awesome kid and she was only 20.”
The Independent Gt