Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday downplayed aspects of the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the U.S. Capitol, adding he didn’t intend to watch “nauseating” media-driven, one-year anniversary remembrances.
Appearing at a news conference in West Palm Beach about the coronavirus pandemic, the Republican governor also drew a comparison between the assault on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump and an ideologically driven 2017 shooting that injured U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., and three other people.
“You’re going to see the D.C., New York media, I mean, this is their Christmas, Jan. 6, OK, ” DeSantis said. “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.”
DeSantis then pointed to the 2017 shooting of Scalise and three others during a practice for the annual congressional baseball game.
“That was like a one-day, two-day story,” DeSantis said. “That was not something that the Capitol-based press wanted to talk about. Why? Because it totally undercut their preferred narratives.”
DeSantis, a member of Congress at the time, had left the field shortly before the shooting by a left-wing political activist from Illinois. The shooting was thwarted by Capitol police.
The governor said people should be held accountable for rioting, but he dismissed labeling people who stormed the Capitol as terrorists and rejected descriptions of the events as an insurrection. Trump supporters forced their way into the Capitol to try to prevent Congress from voting to confirm Democratic President Joe Biden’s win over Trump in the November 2020 election.
“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 are going into those buildings,” DeSantis said.
“And it’s an insult to people when you say it’s an insurrection, and then a year later, nobody has been charged with that (crime),” DeSantis continued. “People are being charged with disrupting proceedings or (things like) that. I think it’s very important that if this is what you said it was, why are you not charging people? So, I think it’s going to end up being just a politicized Charlie Foxtrot today.”
Of the more than 700 people who have been arrested in the assault on the Capitol, 76 are from Florida. Charges range from entering restricted areas of the legislative building to conspiracy.
As DeSantis addressed reporters, Democrats across the nation issued statements condemning the assault.
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, D-Fla., called the attack “shameful.”
“We have seen it in other countries but not here,” Lawson said. “However, this riot happened in front of all our eyes. The insurrection was orchestrated by Americans, then-President Trump was asked by his daughter, his staff and advisers to call the assault off and he did nothing to prevent it. Instead, he helped incite the violence that occurred on that tragic day.”
Florida Democratic Party Chairman Manny Diaz said elected leaders need to stand up against “the hate, the lies and the extremism that led to the vicious attack on our Capitol.”
“I pray that our system of justice not shy away from holding those responsible accountable for their ruthless acts, the grief they caused the families of the Capitol Police, including those that survived, and the lasting damage to our principles of our democracy,” Diaz said in a statement. “I pray that all of us work together — Democrats, Republicans, and Independents — on behalf of the common good to restore decency, honor and respect for the rule of law.”
At Statuary Hall in the Capitol, President Joe Biden said the events of Jan. 6, 2021, can’t be buried, as people involved in the attack were part of an “armed insurrection,” where a president who lost an election “tried to prevent the peaceful transition of power.”
“The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election,” Biden said. “He has done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interest as more important than his country’s interest, America’s interest, and because his bruised ego means more to him than our democracy and our Constitution.”
But DeSantis, who is widely considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate, dismissed an ongoing investigation by a U.S. House select committee as being ineffectively used for “posturing purposes.”
“It’s not something that I’ve been concerned about in my job here, because, quite frankly, it’s not something that most Floridians have been concerned about,” DeSantis said. “They’re concerned about their jobs, education, inflation, gas prices, all those things.”