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Four former U.S. presidents react to chaos on Capitol Hill: "Sickening and heartbreaking sight"

Posted at 11:02 PM, Jan 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-07 00:02:16-05

Former Presidents of the United States have released statements after protesters entered the U.S. Capitol Wednesday and forced lawmakers into lockdown as Congress met to certify Electoral College votes for the 2020 election.

George W. Bush

In a statement shared on Twitter and the Bush Center website, former president George W. Bush said he and former First Lady Laura Bush were watching the situation in Washington unfold "in disbelief and dismay," adding that, "The violent assault...was undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes."

"Laura and I are watching the scenes of mayhem unfolding at the seat of our Nation's government in disbelief and dismay. It is a sickening and heartbreaking sight. This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic - not our democratic republic. 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 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. In the United States of America, it is the fundamental responsibility of every patriotic citizen to support the rule of law. To those who are disappointed in the results of the election: 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. May God continue to bless the United States of America."

Jimmy Carter

The 39th President of the United States called Wednesday's violence a "national tragedy and is now who we are as a nation." Carter called for Americans to unite to uphold the laws of the nation. He added that he and his wife, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, are praying for a peaceful resolution so the nation can complete the transfer of power.

"Rosalynn and I are troubled by the violence at the U.S. Capitol today. This is a national tragedy and is not who we are as a nation. 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."

Bill Clinton

Former president Clinton shared his reaction to the violence as well, saying the assault was fueled by years of "poison politics" and the match was lit by President Trump and "his most ardent enablers, including many in Congress, to overturn the results of an election he lost."

"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. 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.

The election was free, the count was fair, the result is final. We must complete the peaceful transfer of power our Constitution mandates.

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-honoring our Constitution, remaining committed to a government of the people, by the people, and for the people."

Barack Obama

The 45th President agreed with his predecessors, calling the violence a "moment of great dishonor and shame for our nation." He added that he was "heartened" to see many Republican Party members speak up Wednesday, and said, "their voices add to the examples of Republican state and local election officials...who've refused to be intimidated..."

"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. 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. 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.

Right now, Republican leaders have a choice made clear in the desecrated chambers of democracy. They can continue down this road and keep stoking the raging fires. Or they can choose reality and take the first steps toward extinguishing the flames. They can choose America.

I've been heartened to see many members of the President's party speak up forcefully today. Their voices add to the examples of Republican state and local election officials in states like Georgia who've refused to be intimidated and have discharged their duties honorably. We need more leaders like these - right now and in the days, weeks, and months ahead as President-Elect Biden works to restore a common purpose to our politics. It's up to all of us as Americans, regardless of party, to support him in that goal."

State and local officials and members of the Congressional delegation also reacted to the Capitol lockdown. Read more on that here.

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