'QAnon Shaman' attorney refuses to apologize for 'short-bus people' comments

The attorney for Jacob Chansley, the Capitol rioter more widely known as the “QAnon Shaman,” doubled down Wednesday on derogatory remarks he made about the mental state of those who participated in the Jan. 6 mob attack, arguing that doing so brought attention to the “special needs” of his client. 

Attorney Albert Watkins first made comments to Talking Points Memo, which were published Tuesday, that Chansley has Asperger’s syndrome and added that this, as well as former President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE’s “propaganda,” should be considered in his client’s case. 

“A lot of these defendants — and I’m going to use this colloquial term, perhaps disrespectfully — but they’re all f------ short-bus people. ... These are people with brain damage, they’re f------ retarded, they’re on the goddamn spectrum,” Watkins told Talking Points Memo. 

ADVERTISEMENT

In a Wednesday interview on CNN’s “New Day,” co-host John Berman asked Watkins if wanted to apologize for his previous remarks, which also included the argument that the rioters weren’t “bad people” but were “subjected to four-plus years of goddamn propaganda the likes of which the world has not seen since f------ Hitler.” 

“Counselor, the Special Olympics says the R-word is a form of hate speech and that the word has become an insult used all too commonly in everyday language,” Berman said. 

“Would you like to apologize this morning?” the host asked. 

“No,” Watkins quickly responded while shaking his head. 

The lawyer went on to say, “For five months, I acted professionally, I talked to the people that needed to know, I made sure that the Department of Justice had the opportunity firsthand to meet with my client ... to have them understand and appreciate the condition, the special needs of my client.” 

“I let them talk to my client while he is confined, not once, not twice, but multiple times, and I got nowhere,” Watkins said. “All I had to do was get vulgar, get vulgar in a short soundbite-driven quote that permitted this very issue to come to the fore." 

ADVERTISEMENT

Watkins’s defense Wednesday echoed comments he made in an email to The Hill Tuesday in which he argued, "One charged, insensitive, and vulgar statement was all that was required to garner the needed attention to this important aspect of the January 6 defendants.” 

Later on in the attorney’s CNN appearance, Berman asked Watkins “what question would you want the former president to answer” should he be called to appear before a congressional commission on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Watkins replied, "What the hell did you mean when you said, 'We're going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue together'?"

“Why would you say that and not go down with them?" the attorney began. "Why would you call these people ‘beautiful people,’ why choose that word?"

"Why choose that word and then turn your back and walk into the sunset hand-in-hand with Lil Wayne getting a pardon?” the attorney said, referring to the famous rapper who was among the slew of individuals whom Trump granted a presidential pardon during his final days in office. 

Watkins has repeatedly condemned the former president, writing in February court documents that Chansley would not have been in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 “but for the actions and the words of the President” and “but for the specific words of the then-President during his January 6, 2021 speech, the Defendant would not have walked down Pennsylvania Avenue and would not have gone into the U.S. Capitol Building.”