IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

All living former presidents condemn violence at the Capitol: 'A national tragedy'

Former President George W. Bush called Wednesday's storming of the Capitol led by pro-Trump rioters "a sickening and heartbreaking sight."
/ Source: TODAY

All four living former presidents of the United States have spoken out against the violence that took place at the Capitol on Wednesday, and despite political differences, they were united in their calls for peace and criticism of rioters.

Former President Jimmy Carter, a Georgia Democrat and the oldest of the group at 96 years old, said that he and wife Rosalynn were "troubled" by Wednesday's events.

"This is a national tragedy and is not who we are as a nation," he wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. "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."

Former President Bill Clinton, meanwhile, characterized the rioters' actions as "an unprecedented assault on our Capitol, our Constitution, and our country."

The 74-year-old then turned his critique to the Trump administration, tweeting, "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."

File: George H.W. Bush U.S. President Dies Age 94
Former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter meet with then-President-elect Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House on Jan. 7, 2009.Ron Sachs / Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a follow-up post, he added, "The match was lit by Donald Trump and his most ardent enablers, including many in Congress, to overturn the results of an election he lost. The election was free, the count was fair, the result is final. We must complete the peaceful transfer of power our Constitution mandates."

"I have always believed that America is made up of good, decent people. I still do," Clinton continued. "If that’s who we really are, we must reject today’s violence, turn the page, and move forward together — honoring our Constitution, remaining committed to a government of the people, by the people, and for the people."

In his statement, former President George W. Bush, the only Republican among the living former presidents, wrote that he and wife Laura were in "disbelief and dismay" as they watched "the scenes of mayhem unfolding at the seat of our Nation’s government."

"It is a sickening and heartbreaking sight," the 74-year-old continued. "This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic. 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."

He also expressed disdain at the timing of the riots at the Capitol, which took place as Congress was confirming President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory.

"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," Bush said. "Insurrection could do grave damage to our Nation and reputation. In the United States of America, it is the fundamental responsibility of every patriotic citizen to support the rule of law."

Lastly, he spoke to the rioters directly: "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."

Former President Barack Obama, who participated in a peaceful transfer of power to President Trump in 2017, didn't mince words in his response to Wednesday's riots.

"History will 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," he wrote in a statement.

He went on to accuse the Republican Party and "its accompanying media ecosystem" of being "unwilling to tell their followers the truth," that Biden won the 2020 presidential election and will be inaugurated on Jan. 20.

"Right now, Republican leaders have a choice made clear in the desecrated chambers of democracy," he continued. "They can continue down this road and keep stoking the raging fires. Or they can choose reality and take the first steps toward extinguishing the flames. They can choose America."

He added that he felt "heartened" by the Republican lawmakers who "(spoke) up forcefully" on Wednesday. "We need more leaders like these — right now and in the days, weeks, and months ahead as President-Elect Biden works to restore a common purpose to our politics."

On Wednesday, the U.S. Capitol was stormed by hundreds of pro-Trump rioters. The events left four people dead — three from medical emergencies and one from a fatal gunshot — and forced the Senate to evacuate. The ceremony affirming that President-elect Biden won the November election also had to pause.

Among the rioters, at least one improvised explosive device and five weapons were recovered on Capitol grounds, according to law enforcement officials.

Trump addressed the riots in a series of tweets, which Twitter eventually flagged for posing "a risk of violence." The social media giant, along with Facebook, later locked his account.

On Thursday morning, President Trump finally committed to "an orderly transition" of power minutes after Congress confirmed President-elect Biden's election win.

"Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th," Trump said, according to a statement attributed to him and released by the White House.