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Republican rep defends comparing Jan. 6 rioters to 'tourists'

In May, Andrew Clyde compared the Jan. 6 riot to "a normal tourist visit." This week, he was given a chance to walk it back. It didn't go well.

In recent months, several Republican officials have tried to defend Jan. 6 rioters as victims, but Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) came up with one of the defining phrases of the larger political debate.

To be sure, the far-right Georgian stood out as one of a small number of Republicans who balked at awarding Congressional Gold Medals to the Capitol Police officers and others who protected the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack. But just as importantly, it was Clyde who rejected the idea that the insurrectionist violence constituted "an insurrection," and compared the violent mob to tourists.

This week, the GOP congressman was offered a chance to walk back his rhetoric. He chose not to.

GOP Rep. Andrew Clyde (Ga.) defended his description of rioters walking through the Capitol on Jan. 6 appearing to look like a "normal tourist visit" during a committee meeting on Tuesday. The heated exchange occurred hours after four police officers appeared before the select committee probing the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, offering harrowing testimony that recounted scenes of chaos, violence and destruction from the insurrection.

During a House Rules Committee hearing, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) asked Clyde if he stood by his earlier rhetoric. The Georgian asked that he be quoted directly.

Raskin obliged, reading Clyde's comments from May: "Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion, staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures. You know, if you didn't know the TV footage was a video from January 6, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit."

Reminded of his own words, Clyde responded, "And I stand by that exact statement as I said it."

He added soon after that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) "is responsible" for the Jan. 6 riot, which has quickly become a popular line in unhinged GOP circles, but which continues to be discredited nonsense.

In a column last month, Dana Milbank wrote that Clyde was a leading contender in the "race to determine who will be the looniest House Republican of 2021." This week's developments probably won't help.