Florida Governor Ron DeSantis downplayed the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol on Friday, saying the deadly day was not an insurrection.
“It was not an insurrection,” DeSantis told comedian Russell Brand in an interview on his “Stay Free with Russell Brand” broadcast show.
“These were people who were there to attend a demonstration, and then they were there to protest. Now, it turned and turned into a riot, but the idea that it was a plan to somehow overthrow the United States government is not true, and it’s something that the media had made up just to try and basically get the most out of it and use it for partisan and political purposes,» he continued.
The comments were perhaps the governor’s most direct on the insurrection since he launched his campaign in May.
Earlier this week, DeSantis told reporters in South Carolina that former President Donald Trump «did nothing» during the attack on the Capitol.
“I should have come out stronger,” he said in response to a question from NBC News during a political event, which was ultimately overshadowed by the news that Trump received a letter from special counsel Jack Smith informing him that he is a target of the federal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
DeSantis has not yet said whether, as president, he would pardon Trump if the former president is convicted.
“Day one, I will have people come together and look at all these cases, who are victims of guns or political attacks and we will be aggressive in issuing pardons,” DeSantis said in May.
Many rioters who are accused of fighting law enforcement on Capitol grounds and others charged with entering the building have explicitly said they were there to try to prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 election.
Members of Congress and then-Vice President Mike Pence, one of DeSantis’s challengers for the 2024 nomination, were evacuated from the Capitol building due to the crowd before returning that evening to formally confirm Trump’s election defeat. Approximately 140 law enforcement officers were injured.
DeSantis joins many Republican members of Congress in rejecting the “insurrection” label of the riots at the Capitol, while some have downplayed the gravity of Jan. 6 by comparing it to a tourist visit or a peaceful protest.
Pence himself has also avoided calling the attack an insurrection.
“I have never used the word insurrection,” former Vice President Mike Pence told conservative media personality Tucker Carlson at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa last week. “It was a riot that took place at the Capitol that day,” he added.
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who was on Capitol Hill during the attack, told voters in New Hampshire on Tuesday that January 6 «was a really dark day in the history of the country,» saying he sought out makeshift weapons in case he needed to defend himself.
DeSantis’ campaign is in the midst of a reboot amid trailing polling behind Trump and troubling fundraising numbers. The reboot will focus on smaller, less-produced events in early states and will see more of a national message rather than constant promotion of the governor’s record in Florida.