Congressional leaders on Tuesday honored the fallen police officers who protected the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, presenting them with the highest honor that Congress can give, the Congressional Gold Medal.
But some award recipients didn’t want anything to do with the Republican leaders ready to greet them. The family of fallen U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died of a stroke after the insurrection, refused to shake hands with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). McConnell offered his hand as they walked by, while McCarthy did not.
Video footage of the event in the Capitol Rotunda shows Sicknick’s family members — his parents and two brothers — warmly greeting Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and walking right past McConnell’s outstretched hand without even looking at McCarthy.
After the event, Ken Sicknick, Brian Sicknick’s brother, told HuffPost that his family didn’t think that McCarthy and McConnell even cared about honoring those who protected the Capitol that day.
“I think whatever they said at that podium was because they were forced to,” he said. “They had to show face because they were the leaders of their respective parties. But was it sincere? I doubt it.”
The Sicknicks said they hadn’t planned to disrespect the Republicans at the event and only realized there might be a face-to-face encounter when they sat across from party leaders at the start of the ceremony.
Sicknick’s mother, Gladys Sicknick, has been outspoken about her desire for Congress to launch an independent commission to investigate the Capitol riot. She called it a “slap in the faces of all the officers who did their jobs” last year when McConnell and McCarthy opposed such a commission. The House created a special investigative committee with seven Democrats and two Republicans.
In the days after the November 2020 presidential election, McCarthy went on national television and immediately began spreading Trump’s lie about widespread election fraud and the election being stolen from Trump. The same lie fueled the insurrection two months later. And hours after the Jan. 6 attack, McCarthy was one of 147 Republicans who still voted to overturn the presidential election results based on the same lie.
McCarthy initially blamed Trump for fueling the attempted coup, which he did, but after a few weeks sought to get back into the former president’s good graces. He has since sought to deflect blame from Trump and suggested that Pelosi left the Capitol vulnerable.
On Tuesday, the Sicknicks were one of four families who accepted the Congressional Gold Medal, which honored fallen U.S. Capitol Police officers and D.C. Metropolitan police officers. Other family members were there on behalf of Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood, who died from suicide in the days after the insurrection; D.C. Police Officer Jeffrey Smith, who also died from suicide soon after the insurrection; and Capitol Police officer William Evans, who died in the months after the insurrection after a man deliberately rammed his car into a Capitol barricade where Evans was posted.
The Sicknicks said they couldn’t believe that Republicans seemed hesitant to condemn Trump for suggesting over the weekend that the Constitution be thrown out so he could be reinstated as president.
“When I grew up, there was a second World War going on,” Sicknick’s father, Charles, told HuffPost. “And Adolf Hitler had these guys, they called them brownshirts. That’s very similar. If you didn’t agree with them, they came in and beat you up.”
During the ceremony, McConnell paid tribute to the officers who defended the Capitol and thanked them for helping lawmakers certify the 2020 presidential election results. The Kentucky Republican denounced Trump following the insurrection yet went on to shield him during his impeachment trial.
“When an unhinged mob tried to come between the Congress and our constitutional duty, the Capitol Police fought to defend not just this institution, but our system of self-government,” McConnell said. “Because of your bravery and professionalism, Congress finished our job that very night.”
McCarthy, on the other hand, gave a speech honoring all police officers, not just those who responded to the attack on the Capitol.
“To all the law enforcement officers who keep this country safe: Thank you,” McCarthy said. “Too many people take that for granted, but days like today force us to realize how much we owe the thin blue line.”
The GOP leader didn’t mention that just a few weeks after the Jan. 6 attack, he met and reconciled with Trump at this Florida estate.
“I’m just tired of them standing there and saying how wonderful the Capitol Police is, and then they turn around and… go down to Mar-a-Lago and kiss his ring and come back and stand here and sit with — It just, it just hurts,” Gladys Sicknick told CNN.
McCarthy’s efforts to get into Trump’s good graces have paid off for McCarthy personally: The former president endorsed his bid to become House speaker when Republicans take control of the lower chamber next month.