A variety of members of Congress have shared stories, some quite harrowing, about where they were during the insurrectionist attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6. But this week, a previously unreported anecdote reached the public, which stood out for a reason.
The New York Times published a report on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and some of the challenges he's facing on Capitol Hill. Way down in the article's 34th paragraph, there was this gem:
After the House chamber was evacuated on Jan. 6, Mr. McCarthy retreated to his Capitol office with a colleague, Representative Bruce Westerman, Republican of Arkansas. When it became evident the rioters were breaking in, Mr. McCarthy's security detail insisted he leave. But Mr. Westerman was left behind in Mr. McCarthy's inner work area, he said in a recent interview. For protection, Mr. Westerman said he commandeered a Civil War sword from an office display, barricaded himself in Mr. McCarthy's private bathroom and waited out the siege while crouched on the toilet.
So, the House GOP leader was with one of his members before the riot became a real threat to members, but as the violent mob approached, McCarthy fled with his security detail -- leaving Bruce Westerman in McCarthy's office to fend for himself.
Fortunately, the Arkansan remained safe while crouching on McCarthy's toilet. During an insurrectionist attack on our seat of government, members have to do what they have to do to stay safe.
The article ran in Monday's edition, and I spent the week thinking that Bruce Westerman would, at some point, have something to say about the reporting. In fact, I more or less assumed he'd deny it -- if for no other reason than to help McCarthy.
But as the week comes to an end, neither the Arkansas Republican nor anyone in his office has made any effort to discredit the Times' article.
In fact, there's every reason to believe the original reporting was correct: Westerman told the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record just days after the riot that he was in McCarthy's office during the attack; the minority leader was whisked away; and he found himself alone as the mob approached.
"How did this happen, where I'm by myself in the minority leader's office?" Westerman said he asked himself at the time. "I thought, 'Well I kinda missed the boat here on the evacuation thing, but I think I'll be OK just sitting here in the leader's office.'"
And so, he hid in the bathroom, locked the door, and turned off the lights. Westerman even remembered hearing someone try to open the door while he was in there.
Later that evening, the early hours of Jan. 7, roughly two-thirds of the Republicans in the House voted to balk at certifying the election results. Arkansas' Bruce Westerman, thankfully, was not one of them, and instead voted to honor the will of American voters.