RNC Blasted for Seeming to Describe January 6 As 'Legitimate Political Discourse'

Susan Jones | February 7, 2022 | 9:22am EST
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RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel introduces President Donald Trump at a fundraising breakfast in New York City on December 2, 2017. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel introduces President Donald Trump at a fundraising breakfast in New York City on December 2, 2017. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - In a resolution censuring Republicans Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, the Republican National Committee has put a glaring spotlight on itself and handed Democrats a damaging talking point.

In laying out the case against the two lawmakers, the resolution's final "WHEREAS" references Cheney and Kinzinger's participation in the House Select Committee on the events of January 6, 2021:

"Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger are participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse, and they are both utilizing their past professed political affiliation to mask Democrat abuse of prosecutorial power for partisan purposes, therefore, be it RESOLVED, That the Republican National Committee hereby formally censures Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and shall immediately cease any and all support of them as members of the Republican Party for their behavior..."

Critics, including some Republicans, pounced not only on the censure itself, but especially on the phrase "ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse."

“The censure resolution by the RNC is wrong; undermines respect for our rule of law; and divides our party unnecessarily," Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson tweeted. "I am grateful for those courageous dissenters in the RNC vote."

Marc Short, the former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, was at the Capitol when Trump supporters forced their way into the building:

"From my front row seat, I did not see a lot of legitimate political discourse," Short told NBC's "Meet the Press" with Chuck Todd on Sunday.

"But, Chuck, to your question, you know, in talking to some members of the RNC I think there is concern that there are people who were there peacefully protesting who have been pulled into this -- what I think has more become a prosecution by the January 6th Committee and feel like they're being unfairly treated."

RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, in several tweets on Feb. 4, blasted a New York Times headline, which read: "G.O.P. Declares Jan. 6 Attack 'Legitimate Political Discourse."

"This story from the New York Times is completely false," McDaniel tweeted. "It’s not journalism, it’s the worst type of baseless political propaganda."

In another tweet, McDaniel wrote: "Cheney and Kinzinger chose to join Pelosi in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol. The NYT needs to correct this story now, or again expose themselves as political hacks."

And in a third tweet, McDaniel wrote: "I have repeatedly condemned violence on both sides of the aisle. Unfortunately, this committee has gone well beyond the scope of the events of that day."

On CBS's "Face the Nation," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was asked if the events of January 6 were "legitimate political discourse."

"Well, anybody who committed crimes on January 6 should be prosecuted," Rubio said. "If you entered the Capitol and you committed acts of violence, and you were there to hurt people, you should be prosecuted. And they are being prosecuted.

"But the January 6 commission is not the place to do this. That's what prosecutors are supposed to do. This commission is a partisan scam. They're going after -- they're -- the purpose of that commission is to try to embarrass and smear and harass as many Republicans as they can get their hands on."

Rubio said the January 6 committee is harassing people who weren't even in Washington on January 6: "I do not believe that we need a congressional committee to harass Americans that weren't even in Washington on January 6, that were not in favor of what happened on that day, have condemned what happened on that day, but they want to smear them anyway. I'm against that, yes."

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska tweeted: "What happened on January 6, 2021 was an effort to overturn a lawful election resulting in violence and destruction at the Capitol. We must not legitimize those actions which resulted in loss of life and we must learn from that horrible event so history does not repeat itself...As Americans we must acknowledge those tragic events, and we cannot allow a false narrative to be created. We cannot deny the truth -- to suggest it was 'legitimate political discourse' is just wrong.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) issued an even stronger condemnation of the GOP via Twitter: "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."

Murkowski and Romney often go against the party line.

On ABC's "This Week," contributor Sarah Isgur said the controversy over "legitimate political discourse" shows "there's definitely a fracture going on in the Republican Party."

"In talking to senior staff at the Republican National Committee, they felt almost blindsided by the attention it's gotten," Isgur said:

As they would explain it, they had members of the 168 voting members of the Republican National Committee who received subpoenas from the January 6th Committee. They felt like this was a resolution referencing that. They weren't there at the Capitol that day, they say.

And so, they were expecting the blow-back from the censure of Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney. But they seemed unaware that that line, the 'legitimate political discourse' would receive the kind of attention it's receiving. They, of course, feel like they've said that violence at the Capitol that day was unacceptable.

But then of course, you have Donald Trump talking about the pardoning the people who have been charged with violence at the Capitol that day. It seems like the RNC has missed the moment here. And is, again, part of this fracture that's going on.

ABC's Washington Correspondent Jon Karl said the RNC resolution is "going to live in infamy...I mean, it -- they said 'legitimate political discourse.' They didn't directly say that the rioters were exercising legitimate political discourse. But looking at the text of the resolution, it's hard to see what else they were talking about..."

ABC contributor Chris Christie, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, noted that most of the RNC members were put there by Donald Trump: "And so, it's certainly Ronna Romney McDaniel is carrying water for Donald Trump in this regard. And so, let's not make it bigger than it is," Christie continued:

I think that there's two mistakes here by the RNC beside the obvious ones we've already discussed. First of all, they say that part of the reason for the resolution is they want to keep the focus on Joe Biden and the failures of the Democratic administration. Well, how did that work for you? All anybody is talking about this weekend is this resolution rather than talking about the failures of the Biden administration.

And secondly, it's not picking up on what is, I sense, around the country, from traveling around, a shift that is occurring, which is that people are tired of hearing about the 2020 election from Donald Trump and from some who support him. And what they want to hear about is, what are the Republicans' solutions for 2022, for what's the Democrats in Congress and White House are doing to the country and not doing for the country.

If we want to make sure we win the House and the Senate, then we've got to be able to get to that and what the RNC has done and what Ronna McDaniels has done this weekend is to distract from that.

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