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U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde responds to backlash over Capitol riot 'tourist visit' comment
Andrew Clyde.jpg
Andrew Clyde

U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens, said Wednesday that calling the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol an insurrection is a "bald-faced lie," and his reference to a “normal tourist visit” has been picked up by media far and wide.

The events of Jan. 6 saw rioters storm the Capitol building in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 general election that confirmed a victory for then president-elect Joe Biden.

Merriam-Webster defines an insurrection as “an act of revolting against civil authority or an established government.”

“Let's be honest with the American people: It was not an insurrection, and we cannot call it that and be truthful,” freshman lawmaker Clyde, who represents the 9th District that includes Hall County, said during a May 12 House Oversight Committee on the riots.

The hearing Wednesday was supposed to be the latest dive by congressional investigators into the chaos of Jan. 6 — the missed warning signs, confusion and delays that allowed the rioters to terrorize the Capitol for an entire afternoon. Several Republicans used their rounds of questioning not to pepper the witnesses with questions but to downplay the assault.

“If you didn't know that TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit,” Clyde said, referencing a video taken in Statuary Hall.

In the same meeting, Clyde called the rioters "an undisciplined mob" with "some who committed acts of vandalism.”

In the video, people were able to enter the building after rioters broke through glass, pummeled officers and busted through the doors as lawmakers were evacuated. They were headed to the House chamber where they tried to beat down the doors with lawmakers still inside.

When asked whether a Times reporter could speak with Clyde about his comments, his chief of staff, Nicholas R. Brown, referred The Times to an op-ed piece submitted to the newspaper. In that piece, Clyde called the events “horrendous” and said the specific video he referenced showed individuals “in an orderly fashion respectfully walking through Statuary Hall.”

He also said violence is not acceptable.

“As a senior military officer and small business owner, code of conduct and responsibility are paramount to me, and the events of January 6th do not follow those tenets,” he writes in the piece.  

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Police with guns drawn watch as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

According to prosecutors, hundreds of pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol and can been seen on video and in photos carrying baseball bats and weapons and left the hallways and offices of Congress vandalized and ransacked with broken windows.

The violent incident left five people dead, and prosecutors have charged more than 460 people for their role in the storming of the Capitol.

“As one of the members who stayed in the Capitol, and on the House floor, who with other Republican colleagues helped barricade the door until almost 3 p.m. from the mob who tried to enter,” Clyde said, “I can tell you the House floor was never breached and it was not an insurrection. This is the truth.”

Many of the supporters prosecuted have ties to right-wing extremist groups, according to the FBI.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, responded to Clyde’s comment, noting that rioters made threats to both then-Vice President Mike Pence and herself, the former who was tasked with certifying the final election results.

“Well, I don't know a normal day around here where people are threatening to hang the vice president of the United States or shoot the Speaker in the forehead.” she said during a press conference Wednesday, May 13. “I don’t consider that normal."

In various roll calls and floor sessions, Clyde has been opposed to classifying the Jan. 6 events as an insurrection. 

In March, Clyde joined 12 other House Republicans in voting against a resolution to award Congressional Gold Medals to the agencies that played a role in protecting the Capitol building.

The basis of the opposition was over the bill’s language that called the group of rioters “a mob of insurrectionists.”

The Associated Press contributed.