Family of Jan. 6 officer declines GOP leaders' handshakes at ceremony
Washington — The family members of a police officer who died as a result of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol refused to shake hands with the Republican leaders at a ceremony awarding law enforcement the Congressional Gold Medal.
Gladys Sicknick, the mother of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick, said GOP leaders' commitment to promoting Donald Trump's false narratives about the insurrection that led to her son's death have taken priority over assisting the some 140 law enforcement officers injured during the attack.
According to the District's chief medical examiner, Sicknick died of natural causes one day after suffering two strokes while confronting members of the violent mob that attempted to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
"They're just two-faced," she told CNN on Tuesday following the awards ceremony. "I'm just tired of them standing there and saying how wonderful the Capitol police is and then they turn around and go down to Mar-a-Lago and kiss his ring and come back."
"It just, it just hurts," Sicknick added.
Republicans and Democrats gathered Tuesday to award Congressional Gold Medals - the highest honor from Congress - to all law enforcement who protected lawmakers while defending the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack, including members of the U.S. Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police.
About 140 members of law enforcement were injured as rioters attacked them with flagpoles, baseball bats, stun guns, bear spray and pepper spray.
After family members received the medals, they shook hands with Democratic leaders - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). Gladys Sicknick received a kiss from Schumer. The family members ignored an extended hand from McConnell and walked past McCarthy.
Spokesmen for McConnell and McCarthy had no immediate comment.
On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol to try to stop Congress from counting the electoral votes affirming Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
In the immediate aftermath, McConnell and McCarthy condemned the attack and indicated that Trump was to blame. But weeks later, McCarthy refused to vote to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting an insurrection and McConnell voted to acquit Trump after a Senate trial.
McCarthy later traveled to Mar-a-Lago to meet with Trump.
Sicknick's family lobbied Congress to establish an independent commission to investigate the attack. McCarthy opposed creation of the panel and, in the Senate, all Republicans banded together in opposition. Pelosi and Democrats went ahead in creating a bipartisan committee to investigate, though McCarthy refused to cooperate.
After the ceremony, Ken Sicknick, the late officer's brother, said his refusal to shake hands with the Republican leaders was "self-explanatory" given their fealty to Trump.
"Whatever hold Trump has on them, they've back-stepped, they've danced," he told CBS. "They won't admit to wrongdoing of Trump, of the rioters."
Last week, Trump expressed solidarity with the mob that attacked the Capitol, sending a video of support to a fundraising event Thursday night hosted by a group called the Patriot Freedom Project, which is supporting families of those being prosecuted by the government.
"It's disgusting," Sicknick said about Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), who presented Simone Gold, a rioter, with a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol after her release from prison. "It takes away the heroism my brother showed."
Ken Sicknick, praised Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) for her work on the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attacks but criticized the Republicans who refused to explore how the insurrection happened and Trump's role.
"Unlike Liz Cheney, they have no idea what integrity is," he said explaining why GOP lawmakers were undeserving of a handshake. "They cannot stand up for what's right and wrong."
"With them, it's party first," Sicknick added.
McCarthy has indicated that when Republicans take over the majority next month, they will investigate the Jan. 6 committee's work.
On Tuesday, he praised law enforcement across the country for their "essential brotherhood."
"Putting on the badge means putting yourselves in harm's way to protect others, to keep the country safe," McCarthy said. "These brave men and women are heroes, heroes who protected so many from harm on that day. Heroes who live out the code to protect and serve. Heroes who do the noble work. Too many people take that for granted."
McConnell praised law enforcement officers for sacrificing their lives so that lawmakers could fulfill their commitment to certify the election declaring Biden president.
"Because of your bravery and professionalism, Congress finished our job that very night," he said. "Because you honored your oaths to support and defend the Constitution, we were able to honor ours. That is a reality that was made especially clear 23 months ago. But it is true every single day."
"Thank you for having our backs," McConnell added. "Thank you for saving our country. Thank you for being not just our friends, but our heroes."
In a separate incident, former D.C. officer Michael Fanone, who was severely injured on Jan. 6 and is an outspoken and recognizable advocate for police who defended the Capitol, said members of his own force jeered and taunted him during the ceremony.
Fanone said that as he walked to a bathroom as guests were being seated before the ceremony started, a member of the department's Special Operations Division held his hands in the shape of a plaque and told him in a sarcastic tone: "There he is, the great American hero. Thank you for gracing us with your presence." Fanone said he turned and saw him mouth a profanity.
Fanone said he walked away but then returned to confront the officer, who he said was among a group from the Civil Disturbance Unit. Fanone said he told the officer, "Not on this day, of all days, and if you want to talk about it we can go outside." He said other members of the unit chimed in with jeers, telling him he "was not a cop anymore" and calling him a "disgrace."
Fanone said a sergeant then interjected and warned him not to "talk to his cops that way."
Fanone said other officers separated the group and he walked away.
After the ceremony, Fanone said D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III gave him his gold medal. "I respect the hell of that guy," Fanone said of the chief, adding the gesture, "Made my day."
Fanone has been outspoken from days after the insurrection, in which he was severely injured after being dragged into the crowd and beaten unconscious and threatened with death. But his outspokenness in the media and with others has earned him a reputation within the ranks of his own department, he has said, virtually ostracized by those who dislike the publicity he seeks and receives, and others who he says quietly support Trump.
Dustin Sternbeck, the D.C. police department's chief spokesman, said the event "was a tremendous honor for the Metropolitan Police Department." He added, "We're not focused on any one individual. We are focusing on the contributions of an entire department that saved Democracy on Jan. 6, 2021."