As D.C. police officer Michael Fanone sat before nine House lawmakers Tuesday morning recounting his harrowing and traumatizing experience of defending the U.S. Capitol from a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, his phone rang on silent mode. The unknown caller left a voice mail.
“Too bad they didn’t beat ... you more,” he added.
Fanone shared the full, uncensored voice mail — riddled with racist and homophobic expletives — Tuesday on CNN’s “Don Lemon Tonight.” The caller, who has not been publicly identified, also repeated former president Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen election and accused Fanone of lying.
“They stole the election from Trump and you know that, you scumbag,” he said.
Fanone said he wanted to share the voice mail to remind people that many Americans believe the false, downplayed retelling of the events on Jan. 6 by Trump and several GOP lawmakers.
“Unfortunately, I’ve come to expect this type of response,” Fanone told Lemon. “It’s not the first time that people have expressed similar opinions to me. … There is an element in this country that believes that.”
The interview with Lemon aired hours after Fanone testified before the House select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which resulted in the deaths of one Capitol Police officer and four others. Fanone, who suffered a heart attack, concussion and traumatic brain injury, was dragged down the Capitol steps, beaten and Tasered until he shouted that he had children, inspiring a few in the crowd to protect him and pull him back up the stairs to other officers.
As he recounted the experience in his opening speech to the committee, Fanone grew heated.
“I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room,” he said, referring to lawmakers who denied or minimized the insurrection. “But too many are now telling me that hell doesn’t exist — or that hell actually wasn’t that bad.”
Suddenly, Fanone hammered his hand down on the table and bellowed, “The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful.”
In the months after the insurrection, Fanone, who joined the force after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, has become an unofficial figurehead for the officers who served on Jan. 6. He was one of the first to give a full account of his experience in an interview with The Washington Post.
He has also appeared several times on Lemon’s show, where he publicly reacted to his body-camera footage from Jan. 6 and called out Republicans for trivializing the violence. Months later, officers who battled the mob are still contending with physical and psychological pain.
“Some of the terminology that was used, like ‘hugs and kisses’ and ‘very fine people,’ is very different from what I experienced and what my co-workers experienced on the 6th,” Fanone told Lemon in April. “I think it’s dangerous.”
Fanone, who received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, wrote a letter in May to members of Congress, the D.C. Council and the mayor’s office, in which he said he has “psychological trauma” and experiences “emotional anxiety” when lawmakers deny the brutal truth about Jan. 6.
Fanone told Lemon on Tuesday that he felt compelled to share the message uncensored, despite the caller’s repeated use of profanity and homophobic slurs.
“You’re on trial right now, lying. You want an Emmy? An Oscar? What are you trying to go for here?” the man said.
“I could slap you up the side of your head with a backhand and knock you out,” he continued.
The man then brought up the Black Lives Matter protests that turned violent last summer, accusing Fanone of not caring about people “destroying our cities and burning ’em and stealing … out of the stores,” rhetoric similar to that of right-wing pundits and GOP lawmakers who criticized the House select committee.
After the full recording of the voice mail finished playing, Lemon asked Fanone what he wanted viewers to understand after listening to the message.
“This is what happens when people tell the truth in Trump’s America,” he said.