WASHINGTON – Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) denied Tuesday that campaign merchandise depicting his infamous Jan. 6 salute celebrates the Capitol riot that day.
Hawley’s campaign is selling a mug with a picture of Hawley raising his fist to a crowd of Donald Trump supporters as the senator made his way into the Capitol to object to the outcome of the presidential election. Hours later, the crowd pushed past barricades and joined the mob storming the Capitol.
“It is not a pro-riot mug,” Hawley told HuffPost. “This was not me encouraging rioters.”
The mug shows a modified version of the picture taken that day, with Hawley’s name and the words “SHOW-ME STRONG!” Even on a mug, in black and white and with no background, the photo is still one of the most recognizable images from Jan. 6, 2021.
Hawley has always downplayed the riot, but the mug represents a bolder effort to rebrand his role on Jan. 6 as political bravery.
Hawley noted that when he walked across the plaza on the east side of the building, no riot had yet occurred. The Trump supporters lining the police barricades at that time were peaceful.
“At the time that we were out there, folks were gathered peacefully to protest, and they have a right to do that,” Hawley said. “They do not have a right to assault cops.”
Trump, around that time, was giving a speech near the White House that encouraged his supporters to fight for their country and march to the Capitol, where he hoped Vice President Mike Pence would throw out the election result with help from Hawley and other Republican lawmakers. Trump had been lying about the election for months.
Hawley claimed that the majority of Trump supporters who came to Washington that day did not participate in the riot ― in which more than 100 police officers suffered injuries and several people died ― but are treated as if they had.
“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,” Hawley said.
It’s unclear how many of the peaceful protesters that Hawley saluted remained peaceful. Though the worst violence occurred on the west side of the Capitol, video from that day shows the moment the crowd on the east side started struggling against police in order to get past the barricades. The video was shot across the plaza from the Capitol’s center steps, where Hawley raised his fist.