Colorado’s newest congress member is off to a rocky start.
Less than a week after being sworn in, freshman Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert is facing calls for her resignation or expulsion from Congress over tweets she sent on the day of the Capitol riot.
Boebert tweeted that members were locked in the House chamber and then, a minute later, that Speaker Nancy Pelosi “has been removed from the chambers.” Earlier in the day, she tweeted “Today is 1776,” which her critics view as a call for armed revolution.
“Lauren Boebert has shown that she will gladly rip apart America in order to boost her own fame,” said Rural Colorado United co-chair George Autobee.
The Pueblo-based group ran several ads against her during the general campaign for the congressional seat and staged rallies calling for her resignation this past weekend.
“She has betrayed our country, her oath of office, and her constituents. She is unfit to serve in the United States Congress and we urge her colleagues to join together in expelling her from the very government she urged to be overtaken.”
In a defiant statement sent out the evening of Jan. 11, Boebert dismissed accusations that she endangered lives or exposed location details of the Speaker. “[Democrats] accuse me of live-tweeting the Speaker’s presence after she had been safely removed from the Capitol, as if I was revealing some big secret, when [in] fact this removal was also being broadcast on TV.”
Review of C-SPAN video of that time does not show Speaker Pelosi leaving the chamber. Pelosi recognizes Rep. Paul Gosar and then just over two minutes later, when he asks for order in the chamber, Rep. Jim McGovern is seen holding the gavel. The video does show other high-level Democrats — House Majority Whip James Clyburn and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer — being escorted out of the chamber. You can hear people yelling to lock the doors before the House goes into recess and the cameras are shut off.
Boebert wasn’t the only member of Colorado’s delegation to tweet about being locked down in the House chamber, Democrat Rep. Jason Crow did too.
The Rifle restaurant owner said she denounced the violence last Wednesday, just as she had with incidents at some racial justice protests during the summer. And she argued that Democrats are taking political advantage of the storming of the Capitol.
“We should take Democrats at their word when they say never let a crisis go to waste. Their hypocrisy is on full display with talks of impeachment, censure, and other ways to punish Republicans for false accusations of inciting the type of violence they have so frequently and transparently supported in the past,” Boebert said in her Jan. 11 statement.
She also accused President-elect Joe Biden of inveighing against the Capitol mob but not condemning Antifa in the past — a claim that fact-checkers rate as false — and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris of helping raise bail money for people accused of violent crimes at social justice protests. Harris did tweet a link to a bail fund last summer, but its primary recipients weren’t protesters.
The newly elected politician, who had never held office before, has stylized her political persona in the mold of Trump. She tweets a lot, has thus far been light on policy and has vocally supported Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud.
Her first speech on the House floor was her objection to the Arizona election results on the day of the riot; she argued that a court ruling allowing voters to register after the state’s deadline was wrongly decided and those votes should be thrown out. (There has been no evidence presented of voter fraud that would change the results of the presidential election.)
Criticism of Boebert’s early actions in Washington started before the chaotic events of Jan. 6. She got national attention for her fight to be allowed to carry a weapon inside the Capitol, and for an ad that appeared to show her walking armed on the streets of D.C., in violation of the city’s laws.
It’s a confrontational approach that has won her fans in the district, including Republican Doug Thompson of Grand Junction. He thinks people are reading too much into Boebert’s “Today is 1776” tweet, which she sent on the morning of the Capitol storming.
“I guarantee, if she said it, I'll support it, because I know where her heart is,” said Thompson. Ray Langston, chairman of the Montrose County Republican Party, argued Boebert has brought a “whole lot of new energy into the party, and that is definitely a good thing.”
But Debbie Fisk, who traveled up from Delta County for a recent protest outside Boebert’s Grand Junction office, said the controversial congresswoman “has blood on her hands now.”
“She incited [the riot], and she needs to be punished,” she said.
The view that Boebert’s rhetoric in the weeks leading up to what is usually a ceremonial Electoral College count helped lead to the violence at the Capitol last Wednesday is shared by some of her colleagues.
“One thing I do know is that Ms. Boebert’s rhetoric, in particular, was extremely dangerous and that’s why I’ve been pushing back on it for some time now because I could tell which way it was going to go,” Crow told Denver news station KDVR.
Boebert has countered that Democrats objected to Electoral College certifications in 2001, 2005, and 2017. But only the 2005 objection went forward to the debate stage; no senators joined the other attempts. In addition, the instigators of the 2005 objection said their goal wasn’t to overturn the election result, but to call attention to problems with voting in Ohio.
Dean of the Colorado delegation, Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette, takes a more measured approach to Boebert’s controversial start to her tenure. On Colorado Matters, DeGette said numerous members of Congress played a heightened role in inflaming tensions.
“I need to do the research about all these members to see exactly what they did say, were they just exercising their First Amendment right, or were they actually inciting sedition,” DeGette said.
The criticism of Boebert hasn’t just come from Democrats. Punchbowl News, a political subscription newsletter service, reports that during a GOP member call, fellow-GOP Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler also raised concerns about Boebert’s tweet during the lockdown and that Boebert and fellow freshman Rep. Nancy Mace exchanged words.
Boebert reportedly said the riot was, in part, a result of the Capitol Police. Mace expressed her anger at lawmakers who brought Congress to this point, adding she was “disappointed [the party is] being led by QAnon conspiracy theorists.”
Boebert remains defiant, denying any role in the violence that occurred at the Capitol.
“I defended our Constitution and I always will. America will persevere because freedom always prevails,” she said in her statement.
CPR’s Stina Sieg contributed.