Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Karen Gibson said increasingly divisive political rhetoric was a “key driver” behind anger directed towards elected officials, noting threats against lawmakers had increased considerably in 2020 before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
During an interview with CNN’s Pamela Brown that aired Sunday, Gibson spoke about federal officials’ ongoing concern with the rise in domestic extremism.
“I think political rhetoric is a key driver of some of the anger that Americans feel across the political spectrum towards elected officials,” Brown said, later adding: “It means that there are continued threats, unfortunately, against a number of elected officials.”
Gibson was appointed in March after her predecessor, Michael Stenger, resigned following the U.S. Capitol riot. During the attack, supporters of then-President Donald Trump, bolstered by lies about the 2020 election that saw Joe Biden elected to the White House, took over the halls of Congress.
“I say tongue-in-cheek now that we have a vaccine for COVID. I think we need to work on one for disinformation,” Gibson said. “But I am concerned about people who just cannot separate fact from fiction.”
Gibson added that since the Jan. 6 attack, U.S. Capitol Police were far more attuned to the threat of domestic extremism.
“We all have a right to express our political opinion. That’s enshrined in our Constitution and part of what I’ve sworn to uphold and defend,” she said. “What concerns me is a group of Americans that have fallen for some conspiracy theories and some whacked out ideas that are not based in fact.”