Michael Fanone, a Washington DC police officer who was severely injured during the 6 January riot at the Capitol, said on Wednesday that public overtures about setting up a meeting from the top House Republican, Kevin McCarthy, were “bullsh**.”
The controversy began when Minority Leader McCarthy told reporters, “I’d gladly meet with him ... We gave him the phone number to the scheduler and said we’d love to meet with you. Unfortunately he hasn’t followed up.”
Later that day, Mr Fanone said he had in fact reached out, and that Mr McCarthy’s statement’s were “bulls***.” (According to Mr McCarthy’s staff, at the time the GOP leader made the comments, Mr Fanone had spoken with their office but hadn’t yet reached out to their director of operations. He has since connected with Mr McCarthy’s scheduler on Wednesday.)
The officer was stun-gunned and beaten with a flag pole during the riot, and suffered a concussion, heart attack, and PTSD as result.
The flare-up is a reminder of the complicated reception the officers who defended the Capitol have received from certain parts of the Republican party. The GOP has in recent months staked much of its public messaging around defending the country from a figurative mob of left-wing protesters with ties to “antifa”, but has often clashed the officers who literally defended the Capitol from an actual mob.
Last week, 21 House Republicans voted against awarding Congressional Gold Medals to Capitol police officers, earning critcism from even fellow Republicans like Adam Kinzinger, who wrote on Twitter following the vote that, “How you can vote no to this is beyond me. Then again, denying an insurrection is as well. “
Officer Fanone says when he tried to speak with one of the representatives who voted against the honours, GOP congressman Andrew Clyde, the representative who once called the riot a “normal tourist visit” declined to shake his hand.
“I simply extended my hand and said, ‘How are you doing today, Congressman.’ I knew immediately he recognised me by the way he reacted. He completely froze. He just stared at me,” Mr Fanone said at the time.
Last month, Republicans also blocked the passage of a bipartisan commission that would investigate the riot, expanding on the modest congressional inquiries already under way, a move criticised by relatives of Capitol police officers who were injured or killed on 6 January.
The GOP’s reluctance to engage further with the issue is perhaps due to its deep ties to the trends and figures that allowed the Capitol riot to take place in the first place. The fervent Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol were undoubtedly egged on by the former president and his congressional allies, who spent months claiming without evidence that the election was rigged, and largely haven’t moved on since.
Even after Congress was back in session, the night of the riots, more than 100 GOP House members and multiple senators voted to challenge the election results.
Despite the occasional criticism from moderate Republicans like Rep Adam Kinzinger, the party has largely avoided striking out against Mr Trump, who remains extremely popular with the base and influential with the party.