Not even the people who helped launch Sen. Josh Hawley’s political career can stand him anymore.
Members of both parties have condemned the Missouri Republican for his leading role in helping to incite Wednesday’s riot over Joe Biden’s 2020 victory and bogus claims of election fraud.
Now several voices are calling for the freshman senator’s resignation.
“Any Senator who stands up and supports the power of force over the power of democracy has broken their oath of office,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the No. 3 Senate Democrat, said Friday in calling for Hawley and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to resign.
“There must be consequences for senators who would foment a violent mob for personal gain,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said later Friday. “I call on Senators Hawley and Cruz to resign and accept the responsibility which they so clearly bear.”
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) made a similar statement Thursday, as did Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
A violent mob of Donald Trump supporters broke into the Capitol to disrupt the routine counting of electoral votes from the November election, breaching both legislative chambers and leading to the deaths of four rioters and one Capitol Police officer.
Hawley was one of the most prominent Republicans casting doubt on the election result, and the first to say he would object to its certification. He and Cruz maintained that their objection to the proceedings was necessary to soothe the feelings of the 74 million Americans who voted for Trump ― even though 81 million supported Biden.
Cruz, currently serving his second term, has been controversial for years. The 41-year-old Hawley served for only two years and has been hyped as the future of the Republican Party.
The backlash against Hawley started this week with a dozen or so protesters showing up at his house in Virginia the night before the planned demonstration in Washington. Hawley claimed on Twitter they were antifa “scumbags” who threatened his family and tried to break down the door. The police said the protesters were “peaceful” that they left without incident. “We didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” a police spokesman told The Associated Press.
Shortly before the siege on the Capitol the next day, Hawley saluted a crowd of about 300 Trump supporters gathered outside, pumping his fist into the air in a show of solidarity. It’s an image The Kansas City Star says will “haunt” him.
After the riot and resumption of Senate business, Hawley gave a speech that made it sound like the chaos was just another protest by Black Lives Matter, a movement he has previously mischaracterized as entirely violent even though BLM demonstrations last year were overwhelmingly peaceful.
“I just want to acknowledge that, when it comes to violence, it was a terrible year in America this last year,” Hawley said Wednesday night. “We have seen a lot of violence against law enforcement, and today, we saw it here in the Capitol of the United States.”
In his speech and in a statement earlier in the afternoon, Hawley denounced “violence” in the abstract; he avoided an actual description of what was happening or who was doing it and didn’t use words like “mob” or “riot” or “scumbag.”
And then Hawley said Congress should investigate voter fraud, as though the election had, in fact, been stolen; as though the mob had been right.
“I hope that this body will not miss the opportunity to take affirmative action to address the concerns of so many millions of Americans,” Hawley said, “to say to millions of Americans tonight that violence is never warranted, that violence will not be tolerated, that those who engage in it will be prosecuted, but that this body will act to address the concerns of all Americans across the country.”
Other GOP senators dropped their objections to Biden’s electoral victory immediately, including Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, Mike Braun of Indiana, and James Lankford of Oklahoma. Hawley maintained his objection to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes for Biden, while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) challenged Biden’s win in Arizona.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) tore into Hawley in an interview on Friday, calling his objection “really dumbass.”
“This was a stunt, it was a terrible, terrible idea, and you don’t lie to the American people, and that’s been going on,” Sasse told NPR host Steve Inskeep. “The American people have been lied to, chiefly by Donald Trump, and lies have consequences.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a key Trump ally, meanwhile, accused Hawley and Cruz of posturing for political gain. All three senators are possible presidential contenders in 2024.
Cotton told Fox News that “some senators, for political advantage, were giving false hope to their supporters, misleading them into thinking that somehow” objecting to Electoral College votes “could reverse the results of the election, or even get some kind of emergency audit of the election results.”
But reaction to Hawley’s doomed gambit may have been the fiercest in his home state of Missouri, where his political mentor issued a scathing rebuke. Jack Danforth, a former senator and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations who is considered the dean of Missouri Republican politics, said that backing Hawley’s bids for office was “the worst mistake I ever made in my life.”
Hours later, a Missouri businessman who bankrolled Hawley’s first Senate campaign called on the Senate to censure him for “for provoking yesterday’s riots in our nation’s capital.” And then Simon & Schuster announced it wouldn’t publish Hawley’s book on the evil of Big Tech, lamenting “his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom.”
The editorial boards of Missouri’s two major newspapers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Star, called for him to resign. The Star said that if he doesn’t resign, he should be expelled.
Hawley defended his efforts in a statement to HuffPost.
“I will never apologize for giving voice to the millions of Missourians and Americans who have concerns about the integrity of our elections,” he said, again falsely implying the election was stolen. “That’s my job, and I will keep doing it.”
A spokesperson for Cruz said Democrats were being dishonest because he “immediately condemned this terrorist attack and called for anyone who stormed the Capitol to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The rescinded book deal drew an angrier reaction from Hawley than the calls for his resignation. On Thursday evening, he called his book’s cancellation an assault on the First Amendment from “the woke mob” at his former publisher — his first use of the word “mob” all week.