CLAIM: President Joe Biden told a joint session of Congress that the Capitol riot on January 6 was the “worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.”
VERDICT: FALSE. Not only wasn’t it the worst attack on our democracy; it wasn’t even the worst attack on the Capitol.
In his first address to Congress, Biden will repeat a lie that has become the foundation of Democrats’ efforts to delegitimize Republican opposition: that the Capitol riot was the “worst attack” on American democracy since the Civil War.
It is a laughable proposition. Five people died in connection with the riot, but only one of them as a direct result of the riot — and she was one of the rioters. The riot aimed to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College vote to elect Biden as the next president, but had no realistic hope of stopping it; the certification was held in Congress later that same evening.
Here are several “attacks on democracy” since the Civil War that were far more severe than the Capitol riot of January 6:
Wars: The imperial Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and “managed to destroy or damage nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight battleships, and over 300 airplanes. More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack, including civilians, and another 1,000 people were wounded,” according to History.com. Sixty years later, on September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda terrorists hijacked commercial airplanes, flying one into the Pentagon and two into the World Trade Center, destroying the latter; a fourth airplane may have intended to target the Capitol itself. Almost 3,000 people were killed.
Assassinations: Four democratically-elected presidents have been assassinated since the Civil War — Abraham Lincoln (1865 — after the war was over), James Garfield (1881), William McKinley (1901), and John F. Kennedy (1963). Ronald Reagan survived an assassination attempt in 1981. Several presidential candidates also survived being shot, including Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, and George Wallace in 1972; there have been other assassination attempts, and many threats.
Attacks on the Capitol: As the USA Today recently noted, along with other media outlets, there have been many attacks on the Capitol — many of them far more severe than the Capitol riot. A Puerto Rican terrorist group opened fire during debate in the House of Representatives in 1954, wounding five members in “the most severe assault in the history of the Capitol building.” The Weather Underground exploded a bomb in the Senate in 1971; another left-wing group carried out a similar attack in 1983; and a gunman opened fire at a Capitol checkpoint in 1998, killing two Capitol Police officers. In 2017, a left-wing gunman opened fire on Republicans during a baseball practice, wounding several, including a Capitol Police officer; though the attack did not take place at the Capitol building itself, it was the most serious political violence in recent years. And earlier this month, a radical Nation of Islam follower drove into two Capitol Police, killing Officer William Evans.
Hoaxes: Finally, several “attacks on democracy” that have included efforts to delegitimize the results of democratic elections, such as the Democrats’ false accusation that President Donald Trump won in 2016 through “Russia collusion.” That, arguably, did more to undermine democracy than the Capitol riot, which was roundly condemned by all parties.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.