In the weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attack, former President George W. Bush famously declared in a joint address to Congress: "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists." Apparently to today’s Republicans, that axiom only applies if the terrorists are brown or Black — because when it comes to the overwhelmingly white mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the GOP is doing everything it can to whitewash and downplay the attack.
But what we saw that day was by definition an “insurrection,” as well as an act of “domestic terrorism.” Period. That’s not hyperbole or my opinion. FBI Director Christopher Wray labeled it the latter in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in March.
If we must engage with the GOP’s latest effort to distract from the seriousness of the violence we saw in January, the law is clear.
As 18 U.S. Code Section 2331 provides, “domestic terrorism” involves “acts dangerous to human life” in violation of the law. Given that 140 police officers were injured, some seriously, we can say this element was fulfilled.
Secondly, these acts must have been intended to “influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.” The goal of the attack was to prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Even House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said as much a week after the attack when he declared on the House floor that “the violent mob that descended upon this body” on Jan. 6 “acted to disrupt Congress’ constitutional responsibility.”
Despite these undisputed facts, some in the GOP believe that the “T-word” only applies when the attacker’s skin color is anything other than white. Take, for example, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who just last month called Black Lives Matter “the strongest terrorist threat in our county.” And in 2018, Greene wildly warned when two Muslims were elected to Congress — Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib — that it was part of “an Islamic invasion of our government.”
Meanwhile, when an actual invasion of angry white supporters of former President Donald Trump lays siege to our Capitol, Greene finds other words to use. Last week on the House floor, Greene first employed the GOP’s classic whataboutism, equating isolated instances of violence during last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests with a terrorist attack upon our Capitol incited by the president of the United States to overturn the 2020 election. Greene then voiced her concerns for those arrested for attacking the Capitol, claiming they were "being abused" in jail, with some "being held for 23 hours a day in solitary confinement."
Then there’s Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who gave the keynote address at a white nationalist event in February. In 2016, Gosar bemoaned that former President Barack Obama “refuses to define the enemy for whom and what they are — radical Islamist terrorists — and refuses to put forth an effective war strategy.” But when it comes to Jan. 6, Gosar last week painted the people who attacked the Capitol as “peaceful protesters,” while shaming the Department of Justice for pursuing those involved in the attack, claiming the agency was "harassing peaceful patriots across the country."
Likewise, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., is proud to be tough on terrorism — at least when the terrorists are brown. During his 2016 campaign against former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, Johnson slammed him for being soft on terrorism because he voted against the USA Patriot Act. And, doing his best to gin up fears of brown people, Johnson warned in 2014 that there was a “real and present danger” that members of the Islamic State group were going to infect themselves with Ebola and then come to America and spread the disease, urging that “we should do everything possible to defend ourselves against that possibility.”
Some in the GOP believe that the “T-word” only applies when the attacker’s skin color is anything other than white.
Flash forward to when white terrorists attack the Capitol, Johnson isn’t worried at all. As he told us in March, those people “love this country” — but he noted he would’ve been worried if the protesters were part of Black Lives Matter. Wednesday night on Fox News, Johnson was at it again, telling viewers the Jan. 6 riot was not an “insurrection” but a largely "peaceful protest."
Denial would be bad enough — but Greene and Gosar have gone further, bestowing outright praise and martyrdom upon one of the Capitol attackers, Ashli Babbitt. As the DOJ said in a statement in April, Babbitt was “among a mob of people” who attacked the Capitol and was shot when she "attempted to climb through one of the doors where glass was broken out" to enter a secured area that led to the House floor. Babbitt was a follower of QAnon — which an FBI field office in 2019 identified as a potential domestic terror threat — and announced on her social media feed before the attack that she was there for “The Storm,” a QAnon conspiracy theory that Trump’s enemies would literally be executed.
Despite Wray’s warning in March that the threat of domestic terrorism — especially from white nationalists — is alarmingly on the rise, some in the GOP are still disputing the need for an investigation into the Jan. 6 attack. Only 35 of the 211 Republicans in the House on Wednesday voted in favor of legislation creating an independent commission to do just that. The bill is currently under threat of a GOP filibuster in the Senate. Let's say, for a moment, that it was a group of Muslims who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6. Is there any doubt that GOP would be united in supporting a commission to investigate that attack? But when white supremacists are the terrorists, all but a few in the GOP oppose it. To these Republicans, defending white people from being called terrorists is more important than defending America from terrorism.