Missouri senator Josh Hawley, whose clenched fist salute to Donald Trump’s supporters shortly before they stormed the Capitol made him a pariah among many of his colleagues, was given a standing ovation at CPAC on Friday as he told how he was labelled a traitor for challenging the election result.
In a sign of how firmly the gathering was allied with Trump’s wing of the party, Hawley, one of the former president’s most fervent supporters, was given a rapturous reception.
Hawley was among the fiercest critics of the November 3 election result.
Hawley said that his support for the overturning of the vote had resulted in a campaign against him in the media and among corporations.
He said he was the victim of a campaign to ‘silence’ him – a theme later echoed by Senator Tom Cotton, who lashed out at The New York Times following a controversy over Cotton’s op ed, urging a military solution to quell the George Floyd protests.
Hawley, 41, was the first senator who said he would join a group of House Republicans to object to Electoral College results in key swing states.
Hawley, senator for Missouri, received a standing ovation at CPAC discussing election fraud
The 41-year-old saluted Trump’s supporters on January 6 before they stormed the Capitol
Hawley’s words following the November 3 vote fueled the anger that led to the insurrection
The process of certifying the votes had commenced on January 6 when rioters broke into and ransacked the Capitol for several hours.
Hawley told the crowd on Friday about his reasoning, and was greeted with wild applause, a standing ovation and a chant of ‘USA’.
He said he had raised an objection to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes to ‘have a debate over election integrity.’
Hawley said: ‘What was the result of that? I was called a traitor.
‘I was called seditious, the radical left said I should resign.’
He added: ‘Over the last six weeks the radical left, their corporate allies and the liberal media have tried to cancel me, censor me, expel me, shut me down, stop me from representing the people of Missouri, stop me from representing you, and guess what? I’m here today, I’m not going anywhere and I’m not backing down,’ Hawley said.
‘I did what my Democratic colleagues have done in every single election a Republican has won in the last 20 years.’
Mitt Romney is seen glaring at Hawley on January 6 after the riot, as he continued to claim fraud
Hawley is among a group of Republicans who pressed fraud claims even after the violence
In 2017, when then-Vice President Biden was presiding over the Senate, he dismissed half a dozen House Democrat objections to Trump’s victory.
‘I thought it was an important stand to take, and for that, the left has come after me,’ Hawley said.
‘They tried to silence me. They canceled a book.’
Hawley said he was working for ‘a new nationalism, a new agenda, to make the rule of the people real in this country.’
‘We’re not the past, we’re the future,’ he said of Trump-style populist Republicans like him.
Hawley is believed by some to be contemplating a 2024 run, if Trump does not run again.
His theme of being ‘silenced’ was echoed by Cotton.
Cotton described The New York Times as having ‘totally surrendered to a woke child mob from their own newsroom’, using his speech to CPAC to furiously denounce the paper following a commotion over his op ed this summer.
The Arkansas senator mocked the paper’s staff as ‘little social justice warriors’ who were ‘marinated in the language of the campus seminar room’ and were ‘sitting on futons’ claiming to be offended by his words.
Cotton, 43, infuriated many of the paper’s staff with his article during the George Floyd protests, entitled: Send In the Troops.
Tom Cotton addressed the CPAC conference in Orlando on Friday afternoon
The article was published on June 3: many of the staff complained vociferously, and on June 7 James Bennet, the editorial page editor, resigned and the publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, apologized to staff for ‘a significant breakdown in our editing processes.’
Cotton, a hardline supporter of Donald Trump, said on Friday that he stood by the piece.
‘I wrote an op-ed, it had a very simple message, very simple, very common sense message. Grounded in American history and law, supported by a majority of Americans, arguing very simply that if the police cannot, especially if they are not allowed to restore order, then it is time to send in the troops,’ he said, to applause from attendees at the conservative gathering.
Cotton said that his article sparked ‘total meltdown with the little social justice warriors at The New York Times.’
Cotton’s op ed was published by The New York Times on June 3, with a note added later
He continued, according to The New York Post: ‘All these children, they’ve been marinated in the language of the campus seminar room.
‘They said things like, ‘Your words put my life at risk.’
‘As if typing on their phones, sitting on futons was as dangerous as being a cop trying to stop rioters in the streets.’
The Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC, is being held in Orlando this year.
Trump is due to speak on Sunday afternoon, and the annual gathering is dominated by his allies.
Mitch McConnell, Nikki Haley, Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney will not appear: Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump Jr will.
Cotton, widely seen as a rival to Trump for the 2024 nomination, was cheered by the audience as he heaped scorn on the journalists’ concerns.
‘I’m sorry kiddo, words are words,’ he said, ‘Violence is what your friends are doing out on the streets of America.’
Cotton on Friday mocked The New York Times reporters as thin-skinned ‘children’ on futons
Cotton said that the editors then ‘caved and rolled over and apologized’.
He continued: ‘Some people on the left even called for me to apologize. So let me say again, I will never apologize for defending America.’
Cotton, an Army veteran who served in the Iraq War and who’s a potential 2024 Republican presidential contender, told the audience that ‘when America is under assault and conservatives are under attack, we will never retreat. We will never surrender.’
During his CPAC speech on Friday, Cotton also criticized COVID restrictions still in place in Democrat-run cities such as Washington DC, which forced the annual gathering to move to Florida, instead of its usual site.
‘Maybe if CPAC had promised to burn down buildings and tear down statues, they would have let us up there,’ Cotton said, mocking the riots in DC over the summer.
He embraced CPAC’s theme, which this year is ‘America Uncanceled’, and spoke out against what he described as Democrat ‘cancel culture’.
‘Many on the left have concluded that America is a fundamentally flawed, irredeemable, wicked place,’ he said.
‘They have a lot of names for it. But whatever banner it flies under, it gets back to that anti-American idea.’