Republicans accuse Democrats, media of exploiting Jan. 6 riot

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Republicans accused Democrats and the mainstream media Thursday of weaponizing the first anniversary of the U.S. Capitol attack, wielding the riot by supporters of former President Donald Trump as a cudgel to demonize Trump voters while looking the other way on leftist political violence.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he had no plans to watch the full day of White House and congressional speeches, vigils, testimonials, celebrity appearances and television specials, calling the commemorative spectacle “quite nauseating, frankly.”

“Today is going to be — I mean, honestly, I’m not going to watch any of it — but you’re going to see the D.C.-New York media — I mean, this is their Christmas, Jan. 6,” said Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, at a morning press conference. “They are going to take this and milk this for anything they could to try to be able to smear anyone who ever supported Donald Trump.”

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Mr. Trump ripped President Biden’s speech on the day as “political theater,” while Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, said Democrats are leveraging “a terrible day in America” for political gain.

“You want to know what today is really about for them? It’s about politics,” said Mr. Rubio in a Rumble video. “It’s about promoting a political narrative, the political narrative that all Republicans are insurrectionists, that all Republicans are a threat to democracy, and the only answer is a federal takeover of our elections to make sure the Democrats are in charge of government forever.”

He referred to efforts by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer to pass sweeping elections legislation by suspending the filibuster, citing the threat from the hundreds of protesters who stormed the Capitol as Congress sought to certify the 2020 presidential election results.

In his speech at the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, Mr. Biden had said of Jan. 6 that “this wasn’t a group of tourists. This is an armed insurrection.”

Mr. DeSantis disputed the widely touted “insurrection” claim, noting that none of the 700-plus people charged in connection with the riot are facing insurrection counts.

Among the charges filed are assault, conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding, as well as the misdemeanor charge of “parading, demonstrating and picketing” inside the Capitol.

“Jan. 6 allows them to create narratives that are negative about people that supported Donald Trump,” Mr. DeSantis said. “Look, if you’re obstructing a proceeding, I’m all about: Hold people accountable. If you’re rioting: Hold accountable. But let’s just be clear here, when they try to act like this is something akin to the Sept. 11 attacks, that is an insult to the people who were going into those buildings.”

He was apparently referring to Vice President Kamala Harris, who faced blowback for her remarks Thursday comparing the Jan. 6 mob scene — which had one violent death, a Trump supporter who was shot by a police officer — to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“Certain dates echo throughout history, including dates that instantly remind all who have lived through them where they were and what they were doing when our democracy came under assault,” Ms. Harris said. “Dates that occupy not only a place on our calendars, but a place in our collective memory: Dec. 7, 1941; Sept. 11, 2001; and Jan. 6, 2021.”

Rep. Andy Biggs, Arizona Republican, responded by tweeting: “Kamala compared Jan6 to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Twin Towers. Fear-baiting and truth-twisting at its finest.”

Mr. Biden was also accused of hyperbole by, for example, declaring that the rioters “held a dagger at the throat of America and American democracy.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said that the administration speeches “were an effort to resurrect a failed presidency more than marking the anniversary of a dark day in American history.”

“The Biden Administration seems to be incapable of dealing with the challenges America faces, and their efforts to politicize January 6 will fall flat,” tweeted Mr. Graham.

At least one event was literally political theater. During the special House session, cast members from “Hamilton,” including creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, appeared remotely to sing a song from the hit Broadway musical.

Republicans contrasted the Jan. 6 hoopla with the Democrats’ silence on recent leftist political violence, including the 2017 Congressional Baseball Game shooting and the 2020 Black Lives Matter riots.

“Ask yourself this, what was their outrage last year when over 570 riots broke out across America, when over 2,300 incidents of looting were going on across this country?” Mr. Rubio asked. “Where was their concern for police officers and their support for law enforcement last year when over 2,000 of them were injured in the line of duty and their patrol cars were being set on fire in multiple cities?”

At least two dozen people were estimated killed during the rioting sparked by the May 2020 death of George Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. During the months-long melee, Democrats were accused of either ignoring or abetting the unrest.

“This kind of rank, ridiculous and shameless hypocrisy is no problem for them,” said Mr. Rubio.

Ms. Harris advocated for the Minnesota Freedom Fund, a group that bailed out protesters. Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat, urged activists last year to “get more confrontational” if former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin was acquitted in Floyd’s death.

“People will do what they do,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a July 2020 press conference about the destruction of a statue in Baltimore.

Republicans argued Thursday that political violence of any kind should be held to the same standard.

“I have consistently condemned the [Jan. 6] attack and have urged that those involved be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Mr. Graham tweeted. “I hold the same views of those who attacked the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon and committed other acts of violence throughout our nation.”

Mr. DeSantis recalled being at the baseball field when a left-wing activist fired on Republicans practicing for the annual congressional game, injuring Rep. Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican, and three others, calling it “definitely a politically motivated attack.”

Other Jan. 6 events included a CNN special, “Live from the Capitol: January 6th, One Year Later.” Paramount+ streamed a six-part series about the “driving forces” of the riot called “Indivisible: Healing Hate.” The television networks broadcast extensive coverage of Thursday’s events.

Mr. DeSantis said he planned to skip it.

“I think it’s going to end up being just a politicized Charlie Foxtrot today,” he said. “I don’t expect anything good to come out of anything that Pelosi and the gang are doing. I don’t expect anything from the corporate press to be enlightening. I think it’s going to be nauseating, quite frankly.”

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