Republican efforts to distract and deceive the public over the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 seem to have hit a new low.
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, just as the House kicked off its Jan. 6 hearings with searing testimony from Capitol Police officers, House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik attempted to shift blame. “Nancy Pelosi bears responsibility as speaker of the House for the tragedy that occurred on Jan. 6,” Stefanik said.
The New York lawmaker also deemed Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, “an authoritarian who has broken the people’s house” and claimed Pelosi had refused to seat GOP Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks on the House’s select committee because “she doesn’t want a fair or bipartisan investigation; she wants a political one.”
Stefanik’s brazen bid to flip reality on its head would be comical if it were not so dangerous.
It should go without saying that the main person who bears responsibility for the violence that occurred on Jan. 6 is former President Donald Trump, whose lies about the election being stolen are what inspired a militant set of protesters to gather in Washington. He then directed that very group he convened to head to the Capitol and told them to “show strength.”
But as far as who was responsible for security vulnerabilities that day, Pelosi again is far from the guilty party. Capitol security isn’t the speaker’s responsibility. It’s the duty of the Capitol Police, along with the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms.
Nor is the House speaker responsible for the Capitol Police’s shortcomings. As the president of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, Jane Campbell, told CNN, "The speaker of the House does not oversee security of the U.S. Capitol, nor does this official oversee the Capitol Police Board." Furthermore, the former Capitol Police chief has testified that Pelosi was not involved in decisions about the deployment of the National Guard in the run-up to Jan. 6.
Finally, Stefanik’s claim that Pelosi barred Jordan and Banks from serving on the select committee because she wanted to politicize it represent another remarkable inversion of the truth. Both lawmakers had, in fact, clearly signaled they intended to sabotage the hearings by broadening its scope to cover Black Lives Matter protests and treat it as another opportunity to exonerate Trump. This came after they had both signed a legal brief calling for the Supreme Court to reject the 2020 election results and had voted against the formation of the select committee that Pelosi blocked them from sitting on.
Stefanik’s Jan. 6 rhetoric is a reminder of the GOP’s deepening commitment to the Trumpian style — shameless disinformation designed only to tear down any perceived political adversary. Her claims should be easy enough for anyone to fact-check, but that would of course require an interest in actually trying to get to the truth of the matter.