Obama: ‘We should all be worried’ about misinformation that prompted Capitol riot
Former President Obama issued a warning about the political misinformation that preceded the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, when Congress met to certify President Biden’s electoral win, saying “we should all be worried.”
Obama, speaking during the closing event of the American Library Association’s annual conference on Tuesday, said he saw “some of these trends” of the growing spread and acceptance of misinformation during his own time in office.
“But to see not only a riot in the Capitol around what historically had been a routine process of certifying an election, but to know that one of our two major political parties, a strong majority of people in this party, actually believed in a falsehood about those election results, the degree to which misinformation is now disseminated at warp speed in coordinated ways that we haven’t seen before,” he said, according to CNN.
“And that the guardrails I thought were in place around many of our democratic institutions really depend on the two parties agreeing to those ground rules and that one of them right now doesn’t seem as committed to them as in previous generations — that worries me,” Obama added while speaking to moderator and former Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch.
“And I think we should all be worried,” he added.
The unsupported claims from former President Trump and his allies of widespread fraud in the 2020 election fueled the Jan. 6 mob attack and have continued to be perpetuated by some Republicans, including GOP lawmakers who have sought to downplay the severity of the riot, during which multiple people died and dozens of others were injured.
According to CNN, Obama on Tuesday also specifically cited Trump’s role in exacerbating misinformation and anti-Obama sentiment before then-businessman and political outsider entered office in 2017.
“One of the perpetrators of that, not the originator of it, but somebody who surfed that for their own advantage was my successor, Donald Trump,” Obama said. “And we saw how powerful the constellation of conservative media outlets, talk radio, and then, ultimately, all this gets turbocharged with social media, how powerful that is.”
One of the previous claims Trump previously pushed was the so-called birther conspiracy theory, the racist and baseless claim that Obama was not born in the United States. Trump as a private citizen repeatedly called on Obama to release his birth certificate to prove he was born in the U.S.
Trump eventually walked back the claim in 2016, when he also falsely accused his then-presidential election opponent, Hillary Clinton, of starting the birther movement.
Obama has previously condemned the misinformation and actions that preceded the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, saying earlier this month while advocating for Democrats’ sweeping voting rights legislation that the mob attack “should remind us that we can’t take our democracy for granted.”
“Around the world, we have seen once vibrant democracies go into reverse, locking in power for a small group of powerful autocrats and business interests and locking out of the political process dissidents and protesters and opposition parties and the voices of ordinary people,” he said at the time.
“It is happening in other places around the world and these impulses have crept into the United States,” he added. “We are not immune from some of these efforts to weaken our democracy.”
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