“We’re ashamed of nothing.”
Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) don’t feel too bad about what happened on Jan. 6. The far-right lawmakers on Thursday hosted what they described as the Republican “response” to a slate of Democratic events commemorating the anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. They professed their lack of shame while offering a preview of their press conference on Steve Bannon’s podcast. “We’re proud of the work that we did on Jan. 6 to make legitimate arguments about election integrity,” Gaetz continued, adding that he and Greene planned to stage a march “the grounds that patriotic Americans walked from the White House to the Capitol.”
Gaetz’s comments, which he and Greene echoed in front of reporters a few hours later, represent the most prominant Republican stance on the attack on the Capitol one year after it happened. The rest of the party didn’t have much to say on Thursday, ceding to the stage to the Trump-loving conspiracy theorists. Same goes for right-wing media, which largely ignored the anniversary save for bashing President Biden for attacking Trump in his address Thursday morning.
Gaetz and Greene may have once represented the fringes of the conservative movement. They’re now leaders in it.
The party’s message on Thursday, then, centered around the baseless idea that the FBI orchestrated the riot, that the 2020 election was stolen, and that Democrats are the real traitors. “We did not want the Republican voice to go unheard, and we did not want today’s historical narrative to be hijacked and captured by those who are the true insurrectionists,” said Gaetz after claiming the attack may “very may well have been a ‘fedsurrection.'”
.@RepMattGaetz: "Congresswoman Greene and I are not here to celebrate January 6th. We are not here to obsess about it, but we are here to expose the truth…January 6th last year wasn't an insurrection…but it may very well have been a 'fedsurrection.'" pic.twitter.com/BZkQTmGdFi
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 6, 2022
Greene added that the FBI may have instigated the riot in order “to ensnare, target, and trash a political movement.” She said the same of Democrats when speaking to Bannon. “This is what they do,” she said. “They’re good at regime change, and how do you do it? You lay it out in a perfectly executed plan, and that’s what they did. They’re professionals. They want to disqualify us … they want to use the Jan. 6 Committee … then they’re going to release their report … and they’re going to recommend members of Congress be disqualified.”
“They want to disqualify President Trump, he’s the ultimate prize,” Greene added. “Force him out because they know he has all the support.”
This idea that Democrats are blowing Jan. 6 out of proportion in order to smear Trump also dominated right-wing media on Thursday. Fox News criticized Biden for attacking Trump in his speech, taking issue with the president politicizing the anniversary of an attempted coup to overturn the results of a presidential election. “The president, though, his remarks were more pointed and quite political I would say, divisive in many ways,” Dana Perino said, comparing Biden’s remarks to those of Vice President Kamala Harris.
Fox News’s interest in the anniversary of the attack didn’t extend very far beyond bashing Biden. Brian Stelter of CNN pointed out none of the lead hours of the network’s morning show focused on Jan. 6, and that one of the few mentions of the anniversary came when Brian Kilmeade lamented that Biden only “wants to talk only about January 6 and blame Donald Trump because he thinks that’s the only thing he’s going to get high ratings for.”
Fox News anchor @DanaPerino called President @JoeBiden's remarks on the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6th attack on the Capitol "quite political" and "divisive in many ways." pic.twitter.com/dlp1UOwDQX
— Mediaite (@Mediaite) January 6, 2022
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who reportedly helped convince Trump to call off his Jan. 6 speech from Mar-a-Lago, agreed. “What brazen politicization of January 6 by President Biden,” tweeted Trump’s golfing buddy. “I wonder if the Taliban who now rule Afghanistan with al-Qaeda elements present, contrary to President Biden’s beliefs, are allowing this speech to be carried?”
Graham’s Senate counterpart Mitt Romney offered one of the only Republican condemnations of what happened last January, releasing a statement about the “peril” in ignoring what happened. Romeny neglected to place any blame at the feet of Trump or the Republicans who pushed the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. If he had, he would have risked criticism from the far-right forces leading the party. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has proved he’ll do whatever it takes to stay relevant in the Trump era, but earlier this week made the mistake of calling the insurrection a “violent terrorist attack.” He was excoriated on Wednesday night by Tucker Carlson, and again on Thursday by, yep, Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Marge Greene attacked Ted Cruz today: “Ted Cruz is calling .. MAGA patriots .. he’s calling them terrorists. That was wrong of Ted Cruz and I’m calling him out .. shame on him.” pic.twitter.com/mpg0y0PPDy
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) January 6, 2022
Cruz tried to atone for his sin and reestablish his MAGA bona fides Thursday by tweeting that the word “insurrection” is “a political term used by Democrats & the corporate media to try to falsely slander every Trump voter across America. It’s transparent political theater.”
This is what Cruz and the rest of the Republican Party have been reduced to: trying and failing to play catchup with the likes of Greene, Gaetz, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who also floated the idea that the FBI may have been involved in the riot. “I think this is something that has really been used for political narrative and posturing purposes,” DeSantis added of the commemoration of the attack, describing it as “Christmas” for the media.
A year after the attack on the Capitol, it’s hard to argue that Trump’s merry band of conspiracy theorists don’t wield more power than the “establishment” Republicans like Graham, Romney, and Cruz, who might still be prone to feeling a pang of shame about what happened on Jan. 6. Trump certainly doesn’t. His former press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, told CNN on Thursday that he was “gleeful” as he watched his supporters lay siege to the Capitol a year ago.
The former president may have been convinced to cancel his press conference from Mar-a-Lago on Thursday, but don’t be fooled. He drove home his lack of concern for what happened at the Capitol last year on Wednesday night, telling his supporters to “rise up” in the face of vaccine mandates, a call eerily redolent of his rhetoric prior to the insurrection. He issued a similar statement on Thursday. “Never forget the crime of the 2020 Presidential Election,” he wrote. “Never give up!”