TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday condemned the commemoration of the violent Jan. 6 Capitol riots as a way for Democrats and the news media to “smear” supporters of former President Donald Trump.
DeSantis, a former member of Congress before he was elected governor in 2018, said that he had no plans to pay attention to what he called a “politicized Charlie Foxtrot” event and predicted the coverage would be “nauseating.”
DeSantis, an ally of the former president who has refused to answer questions on whether he supports Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was rigged, downplayed the Jan. 6 insurrection at the capitol that resulted in five deaths and left more than 100 law enforcement officers wounded. The riot has splintered both parties, with Democrats decrying the deadly attack on the halls of Congress and some Republicans characterizing it as a mostly peaceful protest.
“It’s not something that I have been concerned about in my job here, because frankly it’s not something that most Floridians have been concerned about,” DeSantis said during a morning press conference he held in West Palm Beach to discuss Covid-19 testing.
He added that the Jan. 6 anniversary of the event where Trump supporters staged a deadly assault on the Capitol was like “Christmas” for news outlets in Washington and New York City. He contended that the media only spent one or two days reporting on the 2017 shooting where Republicans were targeted by a man who supported left-wing causes while practicing for an upcoming charity baseball game. Several people were shot, including Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who was severely injured. The shooter, James Hodgkinson, was shot and killed by police.
“Jan. 6 allows them to create narratives that are negative about people that supported Donald Trump,” said DeSantis, who also rejected labeling the riots as an “insurrection” because no one has been charged with any crimes that fit that definition.
DeSantis’ comments in the immediate aftermath of the riots were much stronger as he and GOP legislative leaders used the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol as part of the rationale for pushing for his “anti-riot” legislation.
“It was totally unacceptable and those folks need to be held accountable,” DeSantis on Jan. 7, 2021, during a press conference. “And it doesn’t matter what banner you’re flying under, the violence is wrong, the rioting and the disorder is wrong. We’re not going to tolerate it in Florida.”
In his Thursday remarks, DeSantis said those who entered the Capitol should be held “accountable,” but he criticized those who compared the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to the Jan. 6 riots, saying it was “an insult to the people going into those buildings.”
DeSantis made his comments shortly before President Joe Biden sharply rebuked the violence that occurred and said that Trump bears “singular responsibility” for the attacks. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat challenging DeSantis in 2022, said the governor’s comments on Jan. 6 were reasons “why the governor of Florida shouldn’t be the governor of Florida anymore.”
DeSantis came into office in 2018 with the backing of Trump, whose endorsement of him in the GOP primary was seen as a pivotal moment in his political ascent. DeSantis has since emerged as a potential 2024 presidential contender if Trump ultimately forgoes running again. The governor has been a persistent critic of Biden over immigration and Covid-19 and has pushed for the state to engage in several ongoing legal battles with the Biden administration.
Other Florida Republicans who may also run for president in 2024 — such as Sen. Marco Rubio — also criticized the ongoing commemoration of the Jan. 6 event, albeit in a somewhat different way.
Rubio released a video on Twitter in which he “condemned” political violence and said that the Jan. 6 riots could not be “justified.” But he also contended that Democrats had downplayed other types of violence, citing protests and riots that broke out following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
Rubio said that the speeches and remarks on Jan. 6 were “about promoting a political narrative” that “all Republicans are insurrectionists, all Republicans are a threat to democracy.”
In the year since the Jan. 6 riots, dozens of Floridians have been charged for their roles in the event. The Palm Beach Post noted that so far 70 people from Florida have been arrested — which is more than any other state.
Florida resident Robert Palmer has gotten the stiffest sentence handed down in connection with the riots. Last month, a judge gave Palmer a 63-month prison term last month after admitting to assaulting police by swinging a pole at them as well as throwing a plank and a fire extinguisher in their direction.
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