(HOLLIS, N.H.) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made a rare comment on Tuesday about the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol two years ago, which he has previously condemned while suggesting they are over-covered.
During an event in Hollis, New Hampshire, the GOP presidential hopeful was asked by a 15-year-old audience member if he believed that Trump “violated the peaceful transfer of power.”
DeSantis emphasized the electoral danger, as he put it, in “re-litigating things that happened three years ago” before saying, “I wasn’t anywhere near Washington that day. I have nothing to do with what happened that day. Obviously, I didn’t enjoy seeing what happened, but we’ve got to go forward on this stuff.”
“If this election is about [President Joe] Biden’s failures and our vision for the future, we are going to win. If it’s about re-litigating things that happened three years ago, we’re going to lose,” he said, adding, “I can tell you this: I can point you to Tallahassee, Florida, on, I believe, Jan. 5, 2023. We had a peaceful transfer of power from my first administration to my second because I won reelection in a historic fashion. And at the end of the day, you know, we need to win, and we need to get this done.”
“We cannot be looking backwards and be mired in the past,” he said.
In the hours after the insurrection in 2021, which occurred as Congress gathered to certify Biden’s electoral defeat of Donald Trump, DeSantis condemned the “unacceptable” actions of the rioters and said, “The perpetrators must face the full weight of the law.”
“It doesn’t matter what banner you’re flying under — the violence is wrong, the rioting and disorder is wrong,” he later told reporters.
More than 300 people have been charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees that day, the Department of Justice has said, and more than 100 defendants have been accused of using deadly weapons.
About 140 police were attacked on Jan. 6, according to DOJ.
In 2022, DeSantis reiterated that law-breakers should be held “accountable,” but he mocked continued news coverage of the insurrection, comparing Jan. 6 to “Christmas” for “D.C.-New York media” and suggesting the attention was a way to attack Trump supporters while deflecting from problems plaguing the Biden administration.
“When they try to act like this is something akin to the Sept. 11 attacks, that is an insult to the people who were going into those buildings,” DeSantis said. “And it’s an insult to people when you say it’s an ‘insurrection’ and then, a year later, nobody has been charged with that.” (Multiple people have since been found guilty of seditious conspiracy.)
When reelection opponent Charlie Crist criticized DeSantis for, he claimed, not more forcefully calling out the events of Jan. 6, a spokeswoman for the governor told PolitiFact last year: “Gov. DeSantis stands for law and order. He has always condemned all rioting and unlawful behavior, regardless of any political affiliations.”
In the days after DeSantis’ presidential campaign launch this year, however, he appeared to leave open the possibility of pardoning rioters who have been convicted even though he did not mention any specific Jan. 6 cases by name.
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