DES MOINES, Iowa — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis chided Democrats and the media on the third anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol by contending they have used the attack as a “bloody shirt” to “impugn” Americans.
DeSantis has been repeatedly asked — by the media as well as voters at his campaign stops in the state this week — about Jan. 6. He has called the attack a “riot” but his comments Saturday on Fox News may mark the first time he has leaned into a term associated with the political battles held in the immediate shadow of the Civil War.
“It’s one thing to say ‘ok you know these things shouldn’t have happened’ but it’s another thing to wave the bloody shirt and try to impugn tens of millions of Americans as a result of that,” said DeSantis, who then smacked President Joe Biden for his focus on Jan. 6.
“[Biden] had a chance to be a uniter for this country but he has failed,” said DeSantis, who eventually added: “At some point are we going to move on and focus on the people’s issues? … This is not on the top of the mind for voters.”
The term “wave the bloody shirt” is a reference to the rhetoric used in the late 19th century following the four-year war that ripped the nation apart. It has been viewed as a critical term thrown against politicians, primarily Republicans, who referred to the losses of the war while campaigning.
DeSantis was sharply critical of the Jan. 6, 2021 riots in the immediate aftermath. But he would eventually lambast Democrats — and the congressional committee investigating the attacks — by saying they were trying to “smear” Trump supporters. On the first anniversary of the attacks, he rejected defining the riots as an “insurrection” because no one has been charged with any crimes that fit that definition.
Now two years later, DeSantis has been pushed to talk about Jan. 6 after two states blocked Trump from the primary ballot by relying on a clause in the 14th amendment that bars some people from holding public office if they “engaged in insurrection.”
The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to consider whether the states have the power to disqualify Trump from the ballot. DeSantis has predicted the high court will rule against Colorado and Maine and he criticized the push to disqualify Trump by saying it violated the due process rights of the former president. Trump is currently facing federal charges that he tried to illegally overturn the results of the 2020 election.
“How do you get to say then that someone should be off the ballot absent a conviction, not only for him but for anyone?” DeSantis told reporters following a Friday campaign stop in the small town of Cumming. “That opens up Pandora’s box.”
At that same stop, DeSantis was asked by an Iowa voter whether Trump had engaged in an insurrection on Jan. 6. He didn’t directly answer the question and instead said that no one had been charged with insurrection.
DeSantis is challenging Trump for the GOP presidential nomination but has struggled to gain traction and is viewing Iowa as a make-or-break state.
The comments by DeSantis on Jan. 6 are still in stark contrast to Trump, who brought up the attacks during a rally he held in Sioux City. He said that “there was Antifa and there was FBI,” at the riot. He added that those who had been imprisoned for their roles that day were “hostages.”