Pence was inside the Capitol that day and had to be evacuated from the Senate floor with his family as rioters stormed the complex, angry about the impending certification of election results. Trump had earlier falsely declared that Pence could stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory, and some of the rioters chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!” as they roamed the halls.
Pence acknowledged Thursday that Jan. 6 was “a dark day” but also cast it as “one tragic day” that Democrats were using to divide the GOP, in a speech at the Hillsborough County GOP’s annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner in Manchester, N.H.
“President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office, and I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye-to-eye on that day,” Pence said, before raising his voice to emphasize the next point. “But I will always be proud of what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years. And I will not allow Democrats or their allies in the media to use one tragic day to discredit the aspirations of millions of Americans.”
He called on the GOP to stay united to be able to fight back against the Biden administration and “their radical agenda.” Pence railed against the teaching of critical race theory in schools, criticized Democratic efforts to “defund the police” and, citing Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-S.C.) denial that America is a racist country, declared it was “past time for America to discard the left-wing myth of systemic racism.”
“My fellow Republicans, for our country, for our future, for our children and our grandchildren, we must move forward,” Pence said.
Pence’s remarks were a rare public acknowledgment that he and Trump have continued to speak about the Capitol siege and that Pence has apparently been able to set aside his initial anger and apparent continued disagreements with Trump over the events of Jan. 6 to continue publicly supporting the former president.
The speech was also a tacit signal to other Republicans who may feel conflicted about supporting Trump after Jan. 6 that it could be okay to do so. Pence, at least, seemed comfortable straddling that line as he spent nearly 40 minutes Thursday lauding Trump and their administration’s accomplishments and criticizing President Biden’s first several months in office.
“I learned a lot serving alongside President Donald Trump. Some people think we’re a little bit different,” Pence said. “But I think what President Trump showed us was what Republicans can accomplish when our leaders stand firm on conservative principles and don’t back down … It was four years of consequence, four years of results. It was four years of promises made and promises kept.”
Pence is not the only member of the Republican Party who has continued to praise, support and protect Trump despite initially blaming him for his role in the Jan. 6 riots.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said in a House floor speech a week after the Capitol attack that Trump “bears responsibility” and even floated the idea of censuring Trump, though McCarthy did not support his impeachment. He flew to Florida to meet with Trump shortly afterward and has since defended Trump’s response.
Republican senators last week blocked legislation to form an independent commission to investigate Jan. 6, many claiming it was a partisan attack on Trump.