Some members of Utah’s all-GOP congressional delegation took issue with the Republican National Committee calling last year’s attack on the U.S. Capitol “legitimate political discourse.”
Others fell silent.
Sen. Mitt Romney quickly condemned the GOP as the Republican National Committee censured Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for participating in a “Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse” on the bipartisan committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 riot. Cheney and Kinzinger are the only Republicans on the panel.
“Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol. Honor attaches to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for seeking truth even when doing so comes at great personal cost,” Romney tweeted.
RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel later tried to clarify that the “legitimate public discourse” language in the resolution did not apply to Capitol rioters.
CNN’s Manu Raju tweeted Monday that Romney texted McDaniel, his niece, to express his point of view on the censure. Asked how it would affect the midterm election, Romney said, “Anything my party does that comes across as being stupid is not going to help us.”
Sen. Mitt Romney says he texted his niece — Ronna McDaniel, head of the RNC — to express his point of view condemning the censure resolution.— Manu Raju (@mkraju) February 7, 2022
Asked about the impact on the midterms, he said: “Anything that my party does that comes across as being stupid is not going to help us”
On Monday, the Deseret News sought comments from the remainder of the Utah delegation who did not take to social media on the issue.
Reps. Chris Stewart and John Curtis immediately emailed statements. Rep. Blake Moore did not have a comment. Offices for Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Burgess Owens did not respond.
Moore and Curtis voted in favor of the original House bill creating a bipartisan Jan. 6 committee last May. That bill failed in the Senate. Moore and Curtis did not vote for the House resolution last June that established the current panel that Cheney, of Wyoming, and Kinzinger, of Illinois, serve on.
Stewart said those who broke the law on Jan. 6 should be prosecuted.
“There is no interpretation of their behavior that can be considered ‘legitimate political discourse.’ It is counterproductive and disingenuous to deny their wrongdoing,” he said.
Stewart added that Congress should now focus on solving problems such as President Joe Biden’s “radical” spending, lowering record-high inflation, providing assistance to Ukraine and helping the Americans who are still trying to flee Afghanistan.
Curtis had a similar response, saying he has been consistent in his position that those who entered the Capitol broke the law and should be held responsible.
“I’d also like to be clear that I do not consider the violence we saw on Jan 6 as ‘legitimate political discourse,’” he said. “There are many ways to show our dissatisfaction with the political process, but any law breaking we saw on that day was not the way to do so.”
Although Lee and Owens apparently don’t have anything to say publicly about the RNC resolution, some of their political opponents, including Republicans, in the upcoming election do.
Republican Senate candidate Becky Edwards said any effort to stifle free discourse and political engagement is concerning.
“However, the violence we witnessed on Jan. 6 went beyond discourse and resulted in the deaths of officers and civilians. The dismissal of these acts as anything less than harmful ignores the impact that day will have on our democracy for generations to come,” she said.
Ally Isom, a Republican also challenging Lee, said, “At a time when the Republican Party should focus on solving the tough issues of today, it’s maddening to see so much time wasted in dialogue that only feeds political theater, divisiveness and finger-pointing. It’s high time we focus on people over politics.”
Independent Senate candidate Evan McMullin tweeted at Lee on Monday, asking if the senator supports the “shameful censure of Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger and do you believe January 6th was ‘legitimate political discourse?’”
In a tweet last Friday, McMullin said, “Attacking the U.S. capitol, threatening to kill public officials, assaulting police officers, and trying to overturn an election by force is ‘legitimate political discourse?’ We have to stop this madness.”
Republican leaders are now owning insurrection as a way of preserving power. It's wholly un-American and patriotic Americans of every party should stand against it.— Evan McMullin 🇺🇸 (@EvanMcMullin) February 4, 2022
Owens’ Republican challenger, Jake Hunsaker, in Utah’s 4th Congressional district, said in a statement that he “fully condemns” the RNC censure of Cheney and Kinzinger as they fulfill their oath to protect and defend the Constitution. The House investigative committee’s role is to ensure that such an attack on the country never happens again, he said.
“Those who politicize or oppose the legitimate work of the committee stand in direct opposition to the cause of freedom and the survival of our democracy,” Hunsaker said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated Rep. Blake Moore was the only Utah congressman to vote in favor of the original House bill creating a Jan. 6 investigative committee. Rep. John Curtis also voted for that bill. Neither Moore nor Curtis voted in favor of the current committee established in the House.