NEW YORK (AP) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Friday downplayed the deadly January 6, 2021 capitol shootings, saying it was not an insurrection but rather a “protest” that “of course resulted in a disappointing degeneration.”
In an interview on comedian Russell Brand’s podcast, DeSantis said the idea that January 6 was “somehow planned to overthrow the U.S. government” was not true, but a media hoax.
A violent attack by a mob of supporters loyal to then-President Donald Trump was fueled by the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. Mobs stormed buildings, smashed windows, fought police officers and forced lawmakers and former Vice President Mike Pence to flee for their lives in an attempt to stop Congress from recognizing Joe Biden’s election victory. Nine people died in connection with the attack, including four police officers who later died by suicide.
“If someone is honestly running an insurrection against the U.S. government, prove it to be the case. I’d gladly accept it, but all you’re showing me is that there were a lot of protesters out there and it eventually degenerated in an unfortunate way. Of course, it’s disappointing.”
Six Oathkeepers, including the group’s founder, Stewart Rose, were convicted of sedition conspiracy in two trials, alleging prosecutors conspired to block the transfer of power from Trump to Biden. Former Proud Boys National Chairman Enrique Tario and three other members of the extremist group were convicted of sedition conspiracy in May.
They were convicted of Civil War-era crimes, which require prosecutors to prove that people conspired to overthrow the government, and accused them of orchestrating the weeks-long conspiracy that led to the attack.
More than 1,000 people have been indicted for federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. Of these, more than 600 pleaded guilty, and about 100 were convicted after trials by judges and juries. More than 550 rioters were sentenced, with more than half receiving prison sentences ranging from six days to 18 years, which Rose received.
More than 250 people have been charged with assaulting or obstructing law enforcement in defending the Capitol, including more than 85 people charged with using deadly or dangerous weapons or seriously injuring police officers.
In comments on Friday, DeSantis also said it was “ridiculous” how much funding was provided to the Congressional Police after the raid.
Florida’s governor is currently challenging both Trump and Pence for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Earlier this week, President Trump, who has praised rioters as “patriots,” announced news that he had been informed that he was under a Justice Department investigation into his efforts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, including the events leading up to the Jan. 6 attacks.
Pence on Jan. 6 accused former President Trump of putting his family and everyone else in the Capitol that day in danger, saying history would hold him accountable.
DeSantis’ comments are in line with those of other Republican Trump supporters who have more or less minimized their attacks. Mr. DeSantis has tried to appeal to Trump supporters in his White House campaign and has often portrayed Mr. Trump as failing to stick to his policies.
Florida’s governor has made similar comments in the past, denying the attack was a riot, saying at a press conference in January 2022 that calling it a riot “is an insult to the people” when “no one has been charged with it.”
At an election campaign event in June in New Hampshire, Mr. DeSantis said it was “not fun to watch” what happened on January 6, but “we have to move forward on this. We can’t look back.”
Earlier this week, DeSantis criticized Trump’s actions on January 6, saying “he should have come out tougher” but questioned whether Trump’s actions were criminal.
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