Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens, responded Thursday to criticism over his vote on awarding Congressional Gold Medals to Capitol police and his encounter with one of the officers.
Clyde voted with 20 other Republicans against a resolution Tuesday, June 15, that would award Capitol police officers with the medals for their service during the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
The resolution, HR 3325, passed the House with a vote of 406-21 and awards four medals: one to the U.S. Capitol Police, one to the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, one for display at the Smithsonian and one to the architect of the Capitol, “for display in a prominent location in the United States Capitol as appropriate and available for research.”
The 9th District representative has opposed this legislation because of its “partisan rhetoric and politicized language,” according to a March 19 statement posted on Facebook. In May, he stirred controversy when he refused to call the events of Jan. 6 an “insurrection,” and compared certain TV footage from the riots to a “normal tourist visit.”
Instead of voting for HR 3325, Clyde co-sponsored Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert’s similar resolution, HR 1965, which would also award four medals to the same entities. But Gohmert’s resolution has no description of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“I have worked with law enforcement for over 30 years, and even recently cosponsored two bills introduced by Rep. Louie Gohmert to award Congressional Gold Medals to all USCP officers who have given the last full measure in the line of duty,” Clyde said in a statement to The Times Thursday, June 18.
The resolution aims to honor all Capitol police officers, mentioning those who have previously died during duty as far back as Sgt. Christopher S. Eney in 1984. It states, “Most recently, we mourn the losses of Capitol Police Officers Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood, and Metropolitan Police Department Officer Jeffrey Smith, who all passed in January 2021.”
One Capitol police officer, Michael Fanone, said recently on CNN that he tried to talk with Clyde on Wednesday, June 17, in an elevator in the Capitol but that Clyde snubbed him and left quickly. Fanone said that he introduced himself to Clyde, telling him that he was a Capitol police officer who was injured during the riots at the Capitol.
“I extended my hand to shake his hand,” Fanone told CNN. “He just stared at me. I asked if he was going to shake my hand, and he told me that he didn't know who I was. …
“I said that I was Officer Michael Fanone. That I was a DC Metropolitan Police officer who fought on January 6 to defend the Capitol and, as a result, I suffered a traumatic brain injury as well as a heart attack after having been tased numerous times at the base of my skull, as well as being severely beaten. At that point, the congressman turned away from me."
Clyde wrote in his statement that he met Fanone on an elevator but did not know who he was before Fanone introduced himself.
“It is my understanding that Officer Fanone stopped by our office yesterday and my staff offered to schedule a meeting with him,” Clyde wrote. “Though I did not know who he was at the time, I briefly shared an elevator with Mr. Fanone on my way to votes, but I do not recall him offering to shake hands.”
Clyde continued: “I am more than happy to shake hands with any law enforcement officer."
Clyde was also one of 14 House Republicans who voted against legislation on Wednesday recognizing Juneteenth, June 19, as a federal holiday. Juneteenth commemorates when Union soldiers shared the news that slavery had ended with enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, two months after the Civil War had ended and two years after the Emancipation Proclamation had outlawed slavery.
This story was originally published by the Gainesville Times.