On the two-year anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol attack, Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers — who resisted former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election in his state — will be given the nation’s second-highest civilian honor.

President Joe Biden will award Bowers and 11 other individuals the Presidential Citizens Medal on Friday at a ceremony in Washington, the White House announced Thursday. The group will be the award’s first living recipients since 2012, when then-President Barack Obama honored civil rights activist and U.S. senator Harris Wofford.

The White House’s announcement came the day after the Deseret News first reported Bowers would be receiving the award.

“I am not often speechless,” Bowers told the Deseret News. “It’s an honor, for sure.”

Arizona’s last Republican maverick
Here’s what this Arizona Latter-day Saint told the Jan. 6 committee about why he resisted Trump

The 12 recipients each “demonstrated courage and selflessness” surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. Recipients include Eugene Goodman, the Capitol police offer who guided Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and others to safety; Al Schmidt, a former Republican city commissioner in Philadelphia who rejected voter fraud claims in his city; and Jocelyn Benson, former Michican secretary of state who, alongside Bowers, received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award last year.

Brian Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer who died shortly after the Jan. 6 attack, will also be honored posthumously.

Bowers testified before the Jan. 6 committee last June, in which he recounted pressure from Trump, attorney Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., to illegally overturn election results in his state, which Biden won. Bowers’ resistance — and later decision to offer his testimony after being subpoenaed — cost Bowers his seat in the Arizona state Legislature.

In his testimony, Bowers said Trump called him on a Sunday, shortly after Bowers returned from a Latter-day Saint church service. Trump told Bowers he should replace the state’s electors with those favoring Trump.

“I said, ‘Look, you’re asking me to do something that is counter to my oath,’” Bowers testified.

Bowers testified that his faith was central to his decision. “It is a tenet of my faith that the Constitution is divinely inspired … and so for me to do that because somebody just asked me to is foreign to my very being,” he said. “I will not do it.”

I know Rusty Bowers. Republicans were wrong to censure him
Q&A: Rusty Bowers opens up on Trump, the Jan. 6 committee and his Latter-day Saint faith

Within days of his testimony, both Trump and the Arizona GOP chairwoman endorsed Bowers’ primary opponent, David Farnsworth. Bowers eventually lost in the GOP primary to pro-Trump candidate Farnsworth, who claimed the 2020 election was “stolen” by way of a “conspiracy headed up by the devil himself.”

Since losing the election, Bowers has become more vocal in his criticism of his party. He’s called the Republican Party in Arizona “dysfunctional” and Trump’s efforts to overturn his lost election “fascism.” He’s also compared Trump’s takeover of the GOP to the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan.

“I’ve joked and said the party has taken Kabul and I’m on the last plane out to Uzbekistan,” he told the Deseret News in August.

What Rusty Bowers said about the future of Arizona Republicans

Bowers’ involvement with the Jan. 6 committee was scorned by many fellow Republicans, who saw the investigation as being weaponized by Democrats. Bowers has defended his decision to testify on multiple occasions. Similarly, when asked if this week’s ceremony — on the two-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot — was a political ploy by the Biden administration, Bowers demurred.

“In the political world, everything has possible connotations. Everybody reads in ulterior motives,” he said. “I’m not going to speak to the president that way. I don’t care who he is. He’s the president. ... I think it’s a better example to be gracious and recognize that he is the president.”

The Presidential Citizens Medal is the second-highest award offered to U.S. civilians, behind only the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It is awarded to “citizens of the United States of America who have performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens.” It was established by President Richard Nixon in 1969.

Bowers was informed of Biden’s decision via a phone call from a member of the White House staff.

“I said, ‘How can I help you?’” Bowers recalled. “He said, ‘Well, I’m calling from the White House.’”

View Comments

“I said, ‘Not again,’” Bowers joked, referring to his phone call with Trump. “The last time wasn’t so fun.”

The ceremony is scheduled for Friday at noon MST in Washington.

Bowers served in the Arizona Senate from 1997-2003 and again from 2015 until the present. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is an accomplished artist. He concludes his tenure in the Arizona Senate this month.

This story will be updated.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.