The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Michael Fanone deserves the nation’s gratitude. That’s not what he has gotten.

D.C. police officer Michael Fanone testifies on July 27 before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Michael Fanone, who resigned Dec. 20 from the D.C. police, was a profile in courage twice this year.

First, when he stood his ground against a violent mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters on Jan. 6, in the process being pummeled unconscious, Tasered by the rioters and suffering a heart attack. Second, when he spoke out about the events of that day, for which he was verbally abused and threatened by anonymous messages, disdained by some Republicans in Congress and judged harshly by a number of his own commanders in the department.

Mr. Fanone deserves the nation’s gratitude for his courage. Sadly, that’s not what he has always gotten. “I feel like I went to hell and back to protect [Americans] and the people in this room,” he told Congress at a hearing this past summer, “but too many are now telling me that hell doesn’t exist — or that hell actually wasn’t that bad.”

A 20-year veteran of the police force, he stepped away from it five years shy of his pension. He will be an on-air commentator on law enforcement issues for CNN.

In some ways, Mr. Fanone was lucky, though he spent months recovering from the trauma he experienced. He survived a mob, whipped up by Mr. Trump’s lies about a stolen election. Other law enforcement personnel were not so fortunate.

One, Brian D. Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer who tried to hold the rioters back, was sprayed with a chemical irritant, suffered two strokes and died the next day. Two others, D.C. police officer Jeffrey Smith, who was struck in the head with a metal pole, and Capitol Police officer Howard Liebengood, died by suicide a short while after Jan. 6 — deaths their families say resulted from events that day. They are fighting to have them recognized as having occurred in the line of duty.

More than 150 officers were hurt battling the insurrectionist mob on Jan. 6; nearly five months later, 17 remained so badly injured that they were still out of work. Others may have sustained undiagnosed long-term head injuries, according to a therapist who has counseled D.C. officers involved in the events.

The reality-denying Republicans who have said the rioters were harmless tourists, or antifa, add insult to those injuries. In refusing to recognize the heroism of Mr. Fanone and other officers who defended the Capitol, and who protected the integrity of the election results and democracy itself, those politicians have disgraced their party and the nation. Their indifference to the gravity of Jan. 6 is an affront to the Constitution, to patriotism and to law enforcement.

Mr. Fanone and the others who tried to hold their ground that day have earned the right to speak out. In the face of Mr. Trump’s own lies about Jan. 6 — he called the mob “a loving crowd” — the truth must be heard. As Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, another officer who defended Congress, bitterly told lawmakers in July, “I’m still recovering from those hugs and kisses.”

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Editorials represent the views of The Washington Post as an institution, as determined through debate among members of the Editorial Board, based in the Opinions section and separate from the newsroom.

Members of the Editorial Board and areas of focus: Deputy Editorial Page Editor Karen Tumulty; Deputy Editorial Page Editor Ruth Marcus; Associate Editorial Page Editor Jo-Ann Armao (education, D.C. affairs); Jonathan Capehart (national politics); Lee Hockstader (immigration; issues affecting Virginia and Maryland); David E. Hoffman (global public health); Charles Lane (foreign affairs, national security, international economics); Heather Long (economics); Molly Roberts (technology and society); and Stephen Stromberg (elections, the White House, Congress, legal affairs, energy, the environment, health care).

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