Josh Hawley defends January 6 fist-pump merch: ‘It is not a pro-riot mug’
Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley has defended his campaign selling a mug with an image of him raising his fist to Trump supporters on 6 January 2021 taken shortly before many of them laid siege to the Capitol to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory.
“It is not a pro-riot mug,” Mr Hawley told HuffPost. “This was not me encouraging rioters.”
The senator later objected to the certification of the results on 6 January despite the lack of evidence of fraud.
The photo, that some believed would lead to the end of Mr Hawley’s congressional career, is featured on the mugs being sold for $20.
“Josh Hawley: show-me strong!” the mugs state.
“Liberals are so easily triggered, and this new mug is really whipping the left into a frenzy!” a fundraising email from the Hawley campaign said. “Josh isn’t scared — he’s show-me strong! This Made in America mug is the perfect way to enjoy Coffee, Tea, or Liberal Tears! Check it out below, and order one for yourself or any woke friend or family member that you want to trigger!”
Mr Hawley, who has downplayed the impact of the riot, emphasised that when he greeted supporters on the east side of the Capitol, the riot was still hours away.
“At the time that we were out there, folks were gathered peacefully to protest, and they have a right to do that,” Mr Hawley said. “They do not have a right to assault cops.”
Then-President Donald Trump was speaking to his supporters outside the White House at the time, urging them to march to the Capitol. Having lied about the election for months, he wanted his Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the results, aided by GOP lawmakers, something which Mr Pence refused to do.
Mr Hawley said that most of the Trump supporters who came to DC on 6 January last year didn’t take part in the riot, but are treated the same as those who did.
“They’ve been treated as if, if you were here, if you were in Washington, if you went to the Capitol, ‘You’re a thug. You’re a criminal.’ I disagree with that really strongly,” Mr Hawley told HuffPost.
Mr Hawley said only “some of” the people he greeted with a raised fist took part in the riot, and that those who did should be sent to jail.
The photo of Mr Hawley showing his support for the Trump supporters, including some of those who would later take part in the insurrection, went viral after the events of 6 January.
Mr Hawley became the first senator to announce that he would object to the certification of the election because a challenge to Pennsylvania’s use of mail-in ballots was dismissed because of procedural issues.
Following the insurrection, multiple Republicans have criticised Mr Hawley for his part in the events of that day. Some of those who have acted as his mentors publicly ended their support for him and Democrats wanted the Ethics Committee to censure him. Protesters have demanded that he resign and some companies ceased their campaign donations.
But Mr Hawley’s campaign managed to increase its fundraising fourfold compared to 2020 and he remains a popular figure among Republicans in his state, according to The Kansas City Star.
He has also co-sponsored legislation alongside Democrats and managed to get amendments included in the National Defense Authorization Act.
The Republican Party has failed to present a united front on how to deal with the aftermath of 6 January, with the Republican National Committee recently referring to it as “legitimate political discourse”, prompting outrage.
The RNC voted to censure Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney and Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger for working with Democrats on the House Select Committee investigating 6 January.
The vote led to some Republicans blasting the move, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said 6 January was a “violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, after a legitimately-certified election, from one administration to the next”.
Mr Hawley said the vote is in line with how most Republicans in his state feel about the riot and said national politicians in Washington, DC should stay out of it.
While the fundraising email said the mugs are made in the US, Republican Missouri Representative Billy Long tweeted that the mugs that were being handed out at a GOP event had stickers saying “Made in China”.