Former President George W. Bush Addresses 'Mayhem' at the U.S. Capitol: 'I Am Appalled'
"The violent assault on the Capitol — and disruption of a Constitutionally-mandated meeting of Congress — was undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes," the Republican former president said in a statement
Former President George W. Bush strongly condemned the violence and unrest in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday as supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol building, interrupting the certification of Joe Biden's presidency.
In a statement provided to PEOPLE, Bush, 74, said, "Laura and I are watching the scenes of mayhem unfolding at the seat of our Nation’s government in disbelief and dismay. It is a sickening and heartbreaking sight. This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic."
Continued the former president, "I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement."
Earlier on Wednesday, a large gathering of Trump supporters breached Capitol security and entered the building, forcing lawmakers into hiding while the joint session of Congress to ratify Biden's election win was temporarily suspended.
The riot included reports of gunshots, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (who had supported Trump's baseless challenge to the Electoral College vote) said that people were "being hurt." At least one person was shot and was later reported to have died by multiple outlets.
There were numerous photos and videos of looting and vandalism as the rioters moved throughout the Capitol, including the congressional chambers and lawmaker offices.
Despite calls by countless lawmakers — including Biden — for Trump to condemn the rioters' actions, he only issued a brief video message more than an hour after the chaos broke out at the Capitol. Trump expressed support for the large mob that breached the Capitol during a joint session of Congress, calling them "very special" and claiming, "We love you." He also doubled down on his baseless claims of election fraud in the video and a subsequent tweet. The video was removed or restricted from social channels including YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Several of the president's tweets were also removed by Twitter.
"The violent assault on the Capitol — and disruption of a Constitutionally-mandated meeting of Congress — was undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes. Insurrection could do grave damage to our Nation and reputation," said Bush in his Wednesday statement.
He continued, "In the United States of America, it is the fundamental responsibility of every patriotic citizen to support the rule of law. To those who are disappointed in the results of the election: Our country is more important than the politics of the moment. Let the officials elected by the people fulfill their duties and represent our voices in peace and safety. May God continue to bless the United States of America."
"History will rightly remember today’s violence at the Capitol, incited by a sitting president who has continued to baselessly lie about the outcome of a lawful election, as a moment of great dishonor and shame for our nation. But we’d be kidding ourselves if we treated it as a total surprise," Obama, 59, said in a statement.
Obama also took aim at Trump and his supporters' baseless claims of election fraud, saying, "For two months now, a political party and its accompanying media ecosystem has too often been unwilling to tell their followers the truth — that this was not a particularly close election and that President-Elect Biden will be inaugurated on January 20."
"Their fantasy narrative has spiraled further and further from reality, and it builds upon years of sown resentments. Now we’re seeing the consequences, whipped up into a violent crescendo," Obama said.
In a statement of his own, Clinton, 74, called the event "an unprecedented assault on our Capitol, our Constitution, and our country."
"The assault was fueled by more than four years of poison politics spreading deliberate misinformation, sowing distrust in our system, and pitting Americans against one another," he said in a tweet.
"Rosalynn and I are troubled by the violence at the U.S. Capitol today," Carter, 96, said in a statement provided to PEOPLE. "This is a national tragedy and is not who we are as a nation. Having observed elections in troubled democracies worldwide, I know that we the people can unite to walk back from this precipice to peacefully uphold the laws of our nation, and we must. We join our fellow citizens in praying for a peaceful resolution so our nation can heal and complete the transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries."
Although Bush largely stays out of the political fray, he has registered his opinion about Trump in the past, making clear that he didn't vote for the former reality-TV star and saying in 2017, “This guy doesn’t know what it means to be president.”
He was also among the first high-profile Republicans to congratulate Biden, 78, on his win, countering Trump's baseless allegations.
"The American people can have confidence that this election was fundamentally fair, its integrity will be upheld, and its outcome is clear," Bush said in a November 2020 statement.
The statement continued: "Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man, who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country. The President-elect reiterated that while he ran as a Democrat, he will govern for all Americans. I offered him the same thing I offered Presidents Trump and Obama: my prayers for his success, and my pledge to help in any way I can."