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Wyoming GOP reacts to Capitol riot by criticizing media for describing mob as Trump supporters
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Wyoming GOP reacts to Capitol riot by criticizing media for describing mob as Trump supporters

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Mob tries to break through police barrier

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday at the Capitol in Washington. As Congress prepares to affirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory, thousands of people have gathered to show their support for President Donald Trump and his claims of election fraud.

A day after a violent mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, the Wyoming Republican Party released a statement condemning violence, but said it would “wait for the facts” on whether Trump’s supporters were actually responsible for the breach.

In a statement, the party chastised the media for rushing to the conclusion that the president’s supporters were responsible for the violent seizure of the Capitol that resulted in more than 50 arrests and four people dead.

Numerous Republicans — including Wyoming’s Congresswoman Liz Cheney — have already blamed the president for inciting the riots by continuing to assert the election was stolen. According to reporting by the New York Times, White House counsel Pat Cipollone warned the president that he could face legal exposure for the riot given that he had urged his supporters — many of whom carried Trump flags — to march to the Capitol and fight for him immediately prior to the breach.

“We do not condone violence, and would hope people would make good decisions,” the state GOP’s statement read. “Since the facts are still unknown, any statement regarding the events is premature, as all we know is the media side of the story. We will not jump to conclusions and point fingers until we have the facts. It is our hope that the media will report the truth, and that the justice system will prosecute those responsible, first for the riots in the Spring of 2020 and then, when the facts come out regarding the events of this day, those responsible for yesterday’s chaos.”

The Wyoming Republican Party has consistently supported the president’s baseless assertions that rampant voter fraud helped Democrat Joe Biden win the 2020 elections: arguments that have not withstood numerous recounts, reviews and more than 50 separate court cases.

In a separate statement, Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne — who was among tens of thousands of protesters at a “Stop The Steal” rally on the National Mall on Wednesday — said that his observations of the event showed a “peaceful and patriotic crowd” there to support a President in his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. That statement, however, almost completely ignored the unrest that followed, which involved demonstrators clashing with police, breaking windows inside of the Capitol, and trashing the offices of members of Congress and their staff as elected officials and members of the press huddled behind locked doors in the United States Capitol building.

“No violence or property damage was observed during my time there including a brief stop in the vicinity of the Capitol building property,” Eathorne wrote. “I retired from the public gathering near mid-afternoon and watched the news of some reported events I personally had not witnessed. The President’s statement tonight (Wednesday) urging peace and love is the right course of action.”

A text message sent to Eathorne by a Star-Tribune reporter at 3:07 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday asking about the chairman’s safety and what he saw at the Capitol was never returned.

Eathorne’s experience was visually represented in a brief, 19-second clip of an enthusiastic crowd cheering outside of the U.S. Capitol building posted to the Wyoming GOP’s Facebook page on Wednesday, with the caption “This is what’s really happening near the White House in case the media is not reporting. Chairman Eathorne is there with other great Wyoming patriots!”

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The GOP’s statements contrasted notably with one the party issued in the summer of 2020, when unknown vandals wrote an explicit condemnation of Trump in spray paint on the windows of the Wyoming Republican Party Headquarters in downtown Cheyenne. The vandalism came at the height of nationwide rallies calling for police reform, some of which erupted in violence amid clashes between a mix of right wing agitators, various leftist groups and the police.

At the time, the party made a point to mention that one of the Republican Party’s timeless principles was to “uphold the rule of law.”

“The organization of the left is astounding and their tactics are consistently undermining morality,” they wrote of the vandalism, which was cleaned from the windows shortly after.

Some conservative media outlets and a handful of Republican members of Congress have claimed with scarce evidence leftist agitators affiliated with various antifascist groups were responsible for escalating the violence. One particular Washington Times article named by Congressman Matt Gaetz as evidence of leftist violence was quickly debunked, and the facial recognition firm cited by the Washington Times in that article as having proof of leftist violence has since called for a retraction for the news outlet’s false and unverified claims.

The Wyoming GOP did not endorse those claims in its statement. But it sought to suggest that there might be other explanations for the rioters beyond being Trump supporters.

“While the media rushes to label the protesters Trump supporters while not knowing who actually was responsible for the breach, we sit back and wait for the facts,” the statement read. “The protests the last several months have resulted in burned down buildings, destroyed businesses, and people killed, yet there was no outrage from the corrupt media. People are angry and the facts need to be heard, no voice should be silenced.”

However, in the run up to Wednesday’s riots, pro-Trump groups took to online forums with threats of violence, leaving an extensive digital paper trail.

Livestreamed videos and social media posts by white supremacists and, in one instance, a handful of current and former Republican officials from states like West Virginia and Pennsylvania occupying the Capitol were also unearthed in the wake Wednesday’s protests. Members of the mob carried Trump flags and wore apparel celebrating the president. One well known Trump supporter also livestreamed himself from inside the Capitol after the building was breached.

The Wyoming Republican Party did not return a voice message left at its party headquarters Thursday afternoon.

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Politics Reporter

Nick Reynolds covers state politics and policy. A native of Central New York, he has spent his career covering governments big and small, and several Congressional campaigns. He graduated from the State University of New York at Brockport in 2015.

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