Ever since Jan. 6, 2021, Republicans have treated the Capitol rioters like martyrs. In the latest example, Republicans are following Donald Trump’s lead in referring to the pro-Trump confederates jailed in the deadly attack as “hostages.”
On Saturday’s third anniversary of the riot, Trump called on President Joe Biden to “release the J6 hostages.”
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., then parroted Trump during an interview Sunday on “Meet the Press.”
Perhaps this dubious word choice is designed for Republicans to capitalize on the recent poll showing that 1 in 4 Americans believe it’s “probably” or “definitely” true that the FBI initiated the Jan. 6 attack.
Regardless, this hostage talk is merely a hoax. Hostages, to be clear, are people seized by hostile parties, typically in exchange for some sort of ransom. The incarcerated Jan. 6 rioters, on the other hand, have been legally arrested and are facing accountability for things they did — in support of a violent, antidemocratic mob that raided and ravaged the Capitol with lawmakers inside.
Calling them hostages is like saying a bank robber becomes a hostage when taken to prison upon conviction. And in this case, the claims of persecution only serve to obscure the fact that many of these rioters seem to have gotten off fairly lightly.
Back in October 2021, federal Judge Beryl Howell criticized the federal government and claimed in court that the Justice Department’s weak sentencing requests for Jan. 6 participants were fueling confusion about the seriousness of what took place:
No wonder parts of the public in the U.S. are confused about whether what happened on Jan. 6 at the Capitol was simply a petty offense of trespassing with some disorderliness, or shocking criminal conduct that represented a grave threat to our democratic norms. Let me make my view clear: The rioters were not mere protesters.
On top of that, The Washington Post and The Intercept just published reports showing that the overwhelming majority of Jan. 6 participants sentenced to incarceration have received shorter sentences than what government prosecutors sought. And as the Post noted, some of the beneficiaries were found, at trial, to have engaged in violence against police officers — such as Edward Rodriguez, who shot bear spray into officers’ eyes.
Like most Jan. 6 defendants, Rodriguez pleaded guilty. Which is to say: He wasn’t abducted by hostile powers. He’s not a hostage. He’s a convicted criminal serving time for his crime.
But it’s noteworthy that Republicans refuse to see the difference.
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