By:
January 6, 2021

For weeks, as President Donald Trump ratcheted up the rhetoric of a rigged election and how his supporters needed to fight to make sure the election, in his words, wasn’t stolen, there were fears that there could be violence before Trump left office. Those fears grew over the past few days as Trump supporters headed to Washington to protest the results of Joe Biden’s presidential victory in November.

But few expected it would actually result in people breaking into the Capitol.

NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Kasie Hunt said, “I think we need to just step back and take a second here to underscore how rare, unusual and troubling what is going on here is. This is not something that has happened very frequently. It’s not unprecedented that there has been a breach of the House chamber, but it was many, many years ago.”

How unusual was it? Fox News congressional correspondent Chad Pergram said, “I want to be very clear about something. This is the most significant breach of an American government institution since the Battle of Bladensburg  — Aug. 24th, 1814, when the British came and burned the Capitol and also burned the White House. We have never had an instance of an incursion inside the U.S. Capitol building to this degree since that time. Let’s be clear, the mob upended American democracy today as they try to count the Electoral College. You have people taking over the House chamber, the Senate chamber, gunshots on Capitol Hill, an utter breakdown of the constitutional process, bedlam.”

What was striking was how all networks, including even Trump-friendly Fox News, quickly condemned Trump, many of the GOP lawmakers and anyone who has supported Trump over the course of his presidency for stoking the crowd to do the things they did on Wednesday.

At 4:17 p.m., Trump released a taped speech in which he started off repeating claims of a stolen election before urging his supporters to “go home in peace.”

But on CNN, Abby Phillip said, “That video was a disgrace. The idea that today, on the day that Congress intends to count the electoral votes for Joe Biden, who will be the next president of the United States, Donald Trump still refuses to say that he lost a democratically held election in the United States of America is a profound shame. And it makes us a mockery in the world.”

CNN commentator David Axelrod said Trump has essentially resigned as president since the election so he could work on his “project” of trying to convince everyone that he didn’t really lose the election. And in his absence, Joe Biden has stepped up, as he showed in a live speech condemning Wednesday’s events.

As images of Trump supporters continued to flash on our screens, CNN’s Van Jones said this: “We don’t know what we’re looking at yet. Is this the end of something? Or the beginning of something? Is the death throes of something ugly in our country — desperate, about to go away? And then the vision that Biden talked about going to rise up? Or are these birth pains of a worse disorder? That’s where we are right now.”

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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