Former House GOP leader: Fear of telling 'truth' to voters led to Capitol riot

Former House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorBottom line Virginia GOP candidates for governor gear up for convention Cantor: 'Level of craziness' in Washington has increased 'on both sides' MORE (R-Va.) on Friday argued in an opinion piece for The Washington Post that the deadly Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot at the Capitol was a result of some elected officials’ “unwillingness to speak truth to power.” 

Cantor, who served as the majority leader in the House from 2011 to 2014, pointed to his experience as a top GOP lawmaker in 2013 during what at the time was the second-longest government shutdown in American history.

“Back in 2013, the expectation was that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives could force the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass — and compel President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMillennial momentum means trouble for the GOP Biden's Cuba problem: Obama made a bet and lost Democrats need a coherent response to attacks on critical race theory MORE to sign — a repeal of his signature health-care initiative,” Cantor writes on the initiative to end the Affordable Care Act, more popularly known as ObamaCare. 

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Cantor wrote that “a small group of lawmakers in the House and the Senate, led by Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz228 Republican lawmakers urge Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate Human rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action MORE (R-Tex.), started telling the base what they longed to hear: that Republicans could indeed defund Obamacare simply by insisting on it as part of a larger annual government spending bill. These members, and indeed every other elected Republican, knew better, but very few were willing to say so.” 

Cantor, who now serves as vice chairman and managing director of global investment bank Moelis & Company, argued that this “pattern repeated itself at a new level around the 2020 election,” with the “Stop the Steal” campaign fueled by former President TrumpDonald TrumpMyPillow CEO to pull ads from Fox News Haaland, Native American leaders press for Indigenous land protections Simone Biles, Vince Lombardi and the courage to walk away MORE’s unsubstantiated claims that the election was “stolen” from him through widespread voter fraud. 

“Bloggers and certain friendly radio and TV shows didn’t need to worry about providing defensible facts or being confronted with the truth,” Cantor wrote. “Soon, President Donald Trump was talking about how the election could be overturned and awarded to the ‘true’ winner — him — if only a secretary of state . . . or a governor . . . or the judges he appointed . . . or congressional Republicans . . . or the vice president would fight like he wanted them to.”

Cantor maintained that the issue is not limited to the GOP, adding, “The same pattern is already unfolding… as progressive activists — joined by elected officeholders, including Reps. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalCongress must lower the Medicare Age to save the lives of older Americans House Democrats grow frustrated as they feel ignored by Senate Schumer feels pressure from all sides on spending strategy MORE (Wash.), Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators Ocasio-Cortez, Bush criticize lack of diversity among negotiators on latest infrastructure deal Fetterman slams Sinema over infrastructure: 'Democrats need to vote like Democrats' MORE (N.Y.) and ‘the Squad,’ with aspirations of higher office — tell tales of what Democrats could accomplish if only they were willing to fight and use their power.”

“Political parties and their leaders have a two options: Engage in the competition of ideas and solve problems while moving the country forward, or continue to promote disinformation and false narratives designed to undermine our democracy," he wrote.

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“The choice should be obvious,” he adds. 

Several Republican lawmakers and conservative media outlets advanced Trump’s unsupported election claims, with Cantor pointing out in his opinion piece that a Washington Post-ABC News poll released this month found that two-thirds of Republican or GOP-leaning voters believed there was valid evidence showing widespread election fraud. 

Several courts have thrown out claims from Trump’s legal team and pro-Trump attorneys alleging voting irregularities in the 2020 election, with judges pointing to a lack of evidence. 

Trump’s election claims served as the basis for a “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6 that was followed by a violent mob storming the Capitol building as Congress met to certify President Biden’s electoral win. 

Five people died in the chaos, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick and a woman shot by a plainclothes officer. Two additional officers who responded to the Jan. 6 rioting have since died by suicide.