All four living former United States presidents spoke out publicly to condemn demonstrations that shook Capitol Hill Wednesday as Congress convened to certify Joe Biden as president-elect.
The Capitol building was forced to lockdown and evacuate after protesters forced their way past multiple layers of security, breaching the government building. The chaos ended in 52 arrests and four deaths, one of which was caused by a shooting.
Former President Barack Obama placed the blame of the day’s events on President Donald Trump, lawmakers who backed him, and an “accompanying media ecosystem.”
“History will rightly remember today’s violence at the Capitol, incited by a sitting president who has continued to baselessly lie about the outcome of a lawful election, as a moment of great dishonor and shame for our nation,” Obama said in a statement, “But we’d be kidding ourselves if we treated it as a total surprise.”
“For two months now, a political party and its accompanying media ecosystem has too often been unwilling to tell their followers the truth — that this was not a particularly close election and that President-elect Biden will be inaugurated on January 20,” the former president continued, “Their fantasy narrative has spiraled further and further from reality, and it builds upon years of sown resentments. Now we’re seeing the consequences, whipped up into a violent crescendo.”
Vice President Mike Pence said Congress could “get back to work” following the violent protest, formally declaring Joe Biden president-elect close to 4 a.m. Thursday morning. Despite Trump’s efforts to challenge the election outcome, citing claims of voter fraud, suppression, and illegal voting processes, the Electoral College certified 306 votes for Biden and 232 for Trump.
Former President George W. Bush said viewing the disruptive and violent protest left him in “disbelief and dismay.”
“This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic,” Bush said. “I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement.”
The 43rd president continued his criticism of lawmakers, adding, “The violent assault on the Capitol — and disruption of a Constitutionally-mandated meeting of Congress — was undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes. Insurrection could do grave damage to our Nation and reputation.”
Bush also addressed Trump’s supporters, saying that while political losses are disappointing, “our country is more important than the politics of the moment. Let the officials elected by the people fulfill their duties and represent our voices in peace and safety.”
Former President Bill Clinton stood apart from Bush and Obama, specifically mentioning Trump by name.
“Today we faced an unprecedented assault on our Capitol, our Constitution, and our country. The assault was fueled by more than four years of poison politics spreading deliberate misinformation, sowing distrust in our system, and pitting Americans against one another,” Clinton tweeted following the siege.
“The match was lit by Donald Trump and his most ardent enablers, including many in Congress, to overturn the results of an election he lost,” Clinton wrote on Twitter. “I have always believed that America is made up of good, decent people. I still do. If that’s who we really are, we must reject today’s violence, turn the page, and move forward together.”
Former President Carter abstained from naming President Trump in his remarks, choosing to focus on calls for healing and prayer.
“This is a national tragedy and is not who we are as a nation,” Carter said. “Having observed elections in troubled democracies worldwide, I know that we the people can unite to walk back from this precipice to peacefully uphold the laws of our nation, and we must.”
“We join our fellow citizens in praying for a peaceful resolution so our nation can heal and complete the transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries,” the former president said.