Corridors and chambers of the US Capitol were temporarily seized Wednesday, Jan. 6, in an unprecedented breach of the nation’s power center by an armed and politically-motivated mob.
Doomed as it may have been, the apparent coup attempt served as a visceral reminder of the dangers of misinformation, leaving four dead.
Misinformation also placed one local representative quite literally in harm’s way. In a tweet that has since been deleted, Lebanon County’s congressman Rep. Dan Meuser stated that he “stayed back trying to help secure the doors” and praised Capitol Police for keeping everyone safe. News photos show him later evacuating the House Chamber.
After the Capitol was breached, President Donald Trump took to Twitter imploring the protestors to go home, but declaring his love for them and stating the election was indeed “stolen,” a “landslide” victory snatched from him.
Such statements are not true in any legal, political, or practical sense, but Trump’s misinformation has been enabled by regional and local politicians such as State Senator Doug Mastriano and State Representative Frank Ryan, who have advanced speculative and flawed theories suggesting that Pennsylvania’s election went massively wrong in some way, even in our own county, a claim which the Associated Press debunked and county election officials say has no basis in fact.
Senator Pat Toomey also disputed the claims of significant fraud in Pennsylvania’s election prior to the final, 3 a.m. certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College win, saying there was no evidence to that effect. (See the video of Toomey’s speech here.)
The embrace of counter-factual theories is in trend with some local Republican leaders who have made their nonchalance or outright dismissal of public mask wearing a political selling point over the past nine months. (The incidence rate of COVID-19 locally is six times higher today than in June when we polled local leaders on mask wearing.)
Given the historic and divisional nature of Wednesday’s proceedings, we wanted to give Lebanon County’s elected officials a chance to address what happened and offer thoughts on moving forward.
In addition to the general prompt, we pushed officials to indicate in the statement whether they agreed with President Trump’s characterization of the election as a landslide win stolen from him.
LebTown contacted each of the legislators serving Lebanon County: Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, Congressman Dan Meuser, State Senator Dave Arnold, State Representatives Russ Diamond and Frank Ryan, and County Commissioners Bill Ames, Jo Ellen Litz, and Bob Phillips.
Staff from the offices of Senators Casey and Toomey provided statements. Staff from State Senator Arnold’s office and State Representative Ryan forwarded shared statements but did not respond with a statement directly. No response was received from State Representative Diamond Commissioners Ames and Phillips. (A response was received from Meuser’s office on Friday and this article was updated to include it below.)
Responses below are run verbatim.
Senator Bob Casey
From a spokesperson.
Our entire staff continues to work remotely today (Wednesday). Senator Casey was the only member of our team in the Capitol complex. He is safe and taking direction from the United States Capitol Police.
Senator Pat Toomey
This is an absolute disgrace. I appreciate the work of the United States Capitol Police under difficult circumstances. I am currently safe as are the few members of my staff that are currently at the Capitol complex.
Representative Dan Meuser
From a spokesperson, added Jan. 8 at 9:45 a.m.
A day that was intended to debate the importance of election integrity and the rule of law tragically became a day that will be a black mark on our nation’s history. Nevertheless, the work of this House must go on, as America will go on.
We must all sincerely thank the Capitol police and Metro Police for their selfless actions today, putting their safety and lives on the line to protect this House. The lawlessness and violence of today must be condemned, just as all violent protests must be condemned.
See the full speech here.
State Senator Dave Arnold
Joint statement between nine other GOP state legislators.
The storming of the U.S. Capitol by protesters has absolutely turned our stomachs and just as we condemned the multiple violent protests over the summer, these actions cannot be tolerated. It cannot be tolerated and those involved must be swiftly brought to justice.
Naturally, we don’t always agree when it comes to politics, and that is the case now more than ever. However, that is absolutely no reason for the disgusting events in Washington, D.C., to occur. As Americans, we pride ourselves on civility. On the ability for two sides to come together and discuss matters in a meaningful and respectful fashion. This display is neither of those things. Rather, it is a mob raiding a United States government building that houses our elected members of Congress. It must be stopped, and cooler heads must prevail for the sake of our nation and our future.
State Representative Frank Ryan
Statement by Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler and House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, shared by Rep. Ryan as representing his views completely.
Any act of violence or destruction is a crime and should be treated as such.
Peaceful transitions of power are something our country has responsibly proceeded with since our founding and should serve as an inspiration to the rest of the world.
An objection to the electoral process is within the rights of members of Congress and has been exercised by members from both sides of the aisle at different times in our nation’s history.
However, that process leads to debate and dialogue, not violence and mayhem.
We strongly condemn any act of violence and destruction and pray for all those impacted today.
County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz
It saddens me to hear the President state that the election was “stolen.” Our team in the Voter Registration office, the dozens of poll workers and dozens more volunteers who helped to carry out a fair and impartial election and counting of the ballots in Lebanon County deserve our thanks, respect, and trust. To do otherwise is undermining democracy. The same or a similar election process was carried out throughout Pennsylvania and every other state in America. We need a peaceful transition of power, and it is the President’s constitutional duty to see that this happens. Do your job Mr. President. God Bless us all, and the United States of America.
Questions about this story? Suggestions for a future LebTown article? Reach our newsroom using the contact form below and we’ll do our best to get back to you.
Do you support local news?
If you believe that Lebanon County needs independent, high-quality journalism, consider joining LebTown as a member. Your support will go directly towards stories like this and you will be helping ensure that our community has a reliable news source for years to come.
Learn more about membership and join now here.
Full Disclosure: The campaigns of Bill Ames, Dave Arnold, Bob Phillips, Frank Ryan, and Jo Ellen Litz were advertisers on LebTown during previous election cycles. Ames Home Services is a current advertiser on LebTown. LebTown does not make editorial decisions based on advertising relationships and advertisers do not receive special editorial treatment. Learn more about advertising with LebTown here.