Asked if she agreed with the Republican National Committee that the January 6 attack on the US Capitol was “legitimate political discourse”, a senior member of House Republican leadership repeatedly compared the deadly riot to protests, which sometimes involved violence, for racial justice in US cities in 2020.
Elise Stefanik, a New York congresswoman, was talking to reporters on Capitol Hill.
“As Republicans have been very clear,” she said, “we condemn the violence on January 6. We also condemn the violence on [sic] 2020, as violent criminals attacked federal buildings, including parts of Washington DC. So we have been clear in that condemnation.
“House Democrats did not condemn the violence that happened all of 2020 and we believe the January 6 commission is political theater. It’s about punishing partisan opponents and not getting to the real facts, which should be how can we ensure that the Capitol complex is safe not only for those of us who work here, but for the American people to come continue to advocate for policies they believe in.”
The RNC called the Capitol attack – and Donald Trump’s lies about election fraud which fueled it – legitimate political discourse last week, in a censure of two Republicans on the House committee investigating January 6, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.
Stefanik was asked if such extreme rhetoric might endanger her party’s chances of retaking the House and perhaps the Senate, as it is favoured to do in November, perhaps by alienating independent voters otherwise turning against Democrats and Joe Biden.
“Again,” she said, “our position has been very clear.”
She then repeated the equation between January 6 and protests for racial justice.
Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the RNC, has complained about coverage of the censure of Kinzinger and Cheney, saying the “legitimate political discourse” language used “had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol”.
Such language was not in the formal censure.