Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton on Wednesday each condemned the mob of rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol — and lawmakers who sought to delegitimize the presidential election results beforehand.
“It is a sickening and heartbreaking sight,” Bush said in a statement. “This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic – not our democratic republic.”
Obama said the insurrection, in which at least one person died, will be remembered as "a moment of great dishonor and shame" and that his successor, President Donald Trump, is culpable. He also faulted the Republican Party and the right-wing media ecosystem for the role they played in casting doubt on the integrity of recent elections.
"Their fantasy narrative has spiraled further and further from reality, and it builds upon years of sown resentments," Obama said in a statement. "Now we’re seeing the consequences, whipped up into a violent crescendo."
Bush similarly said the rioters who breached the building and remained there for hours were “inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes.”
“I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement,” the 43rd president said.
Clinton said the seizure of parts of the Capitol was the disastrous result of "poison politics" and the proliferation of misinformation. But he said it did not shake his fundamental belief in the decency of the American people.
"If that’s who we really are, we must reject today’s violence, turn the page, and move forward together—honoring our Constitution, remaining committed to a government of the people, by the people, and for the people," Clinton said.
Bush also urged people upset about the recent elections to stand down for the sake of American democracy.
“Our country is more important than the politics of the moment," Bush said. “Let the officials elected by the people fulfill their duties and represent our voices in peace and safety.”
The mass of rioters began to breach the Capitol earlier Wednesday, disrupting the vote certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory over Trump and further delaying what was already expected to become a days-long affair after Republican members of Congress challenged Biden’s win in several states. The building was cleared by the evening and Congress has returned to continue its duties.
However, Bush did not mention Trump — who has promoted false claims of rampant election fraud and embraced anti-democratic attempts stay in power — or anyone else by name in his dispatch. Bush, the most recent Republican president prior to Trump, has largely been careful not to publicly criticize the party’s present standard-bearer.
Obama and Clinton, both Democrats, were far more explicit in faulting Trump for his role in instigating the unrest.
"The match was lit by Donald Trump and his most ardent enablers, including many in Congress, to overturn the results of an election he lost," Obama said. "The election was free, the count was fair, the result is final. We must complete the peaceful transfer of power our Constitution mandates."
Trump has continued to speak favorably of the rioters, calling them “very special” and "great patriots" in several tweets that have since been removed by Twitter.
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” Trump wrote on Twitter in one such message. “Remember this day forever!”
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