Despite video evidence, Republicans rush to defend GOP lawmaker who gave Capitol tour on eve of riot

The committee released footage indicating that Rep. Barry Loudermilk may have provided a tour to a January 6 rioter

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published June 16, 2022 9:27AM (EDT)

Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., speaks during the Republican Study Committee press conference in the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday, May 19, 2021.  (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., speaks during the Republican Study Committee press conference in the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday, May 19, 2021. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

On Wednesday, the January 6 committee released bombshell footage revealing that Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., may have provided a Capitol tour just ahead of the insurrection to a man who appears to have participated in that very insurrection, lending more credence to the Democratic-backed claim that the GOP lawmakers led reconnaissance tours before the insurgency was carried out. 

The footage, as reported by CNN, appears to show Loudermilk allowing a man to take pictures of various tunnels, hallways and staircases throughout the complex on January 5. That man, the panel has said, was later seen storming the Capitol the following day. He also appears to have taken a picture of the office sign of Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., whom the rioter in question later threatened in a video. 

"Surveillance footage shows a tour of approximately ten individuals led by you to areas in the Rayburn, Longworth, and Cannon House Office Buildings, as well as the entrances to tunnels leading to the U.S. Capitol," the committee's chairman, Rep. Bennie Thomas, D-Miss., wrote in a Wednesday letter to Loudermilk. "Individuals on the tour photographed and recorded areas of the complex not typically of interest to tourists, including hallways, staircases, and security checkpoints."

Thompson's claims directly contradict those made this week by the Capitol Police, which insisted that there was nothing "suspicious" about the footage. According to Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger, Loudermilk's apparent tours did not cover the tunnels that would have led rioters into the Capitol complex. 

RELATED: GOPer's Capitol tour group threatened Pelosi, recorded areas "not typically of interest to tourists"

Loudermilk, for his part, has alleged that he never gave a tour of the building and had instead hosted an informal meeting with constituents – none of whom, he alleged, were granted access to the tunnels.

"The truth will always prevail," he tweeted on Tuesday. "As I've said since the Jan. 6 Committee made their baseless accusation about me to the media, I never gave a tour of the Capitol on Jan 5, 2021."

The next day, the Republican waxed more philosophical in his defense, claiming that there is a "war on truth" in America. "What the Capitol Police said doesn't fit the narrative that the January 6 committee wants to come up with," he said in a Fox News interview. "We have to stand for truth and right if we're going to save this country."

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Immediately following the lawmaker's denial, numerous House Republicans rushed to Loudermilk's defense. 

"Defamation of character is a serious issue," tweeted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who reportedly corresponded with organizers of the "Stop the Steal" really. "Perhaps if Democrats keep lying about Republicans like @RepLoudermilk and others, they should be taken to court."

RELATED: Lauren Boebert says her late-night Capitol mystery tour was "totally legit." Except it wasn't

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tx., similarly downplayed Loudermilk's alleged tour, saying, "There are some stairwells that are worth taking pictures of … because of their historic nature."

"Democrats continue to spread falsehoods about the Jan. 5 Loudermilk tour," echoed conservative journalist John Solomon, who linked an article suggesting that the Democrats are attempting to wage a smear campaign against the Republican lawmaker.

The Wall Street Journal's editorial team wrote that "the Republican was vindicated this week," before the committee released its footage of Loudermilk. Still, the editors argued, "If the Jan. 6 select committee wants to have more bipartisan credibility, how about apologizing to Georgia Rep. Barry Loudermilk?"

Thus far, the January 6 committee has not formally accused Loudermilk of hosting a reconnaissance visit. The committee asked for Loudermilk's testimony in May and this week renewed their request for an interview. Loudermilk was among six members of Congress representing Georgia—and 147 House Republicans—who voted to overturn the election results. Two days after the House select committee requested Loudermilk to voluntarily cooperate with its probe last month, Donald Trump endorsed his re-election bid. 

Numerous commentators have suggested that Loudermilk's story around the possible reconnaissance tours has evolved over the past year.

Shortly after the riot, the lawmaker adamantly claimed that there were "no tours" led by any GOP members of Congress. But last month, Loudermilk acknowledged that he held a visit with a "constituent family" the day before the insurrection. More recently, last week, the Republican noted that this visit also included unnamed "guests," whom the committee has suggested name-checked Nadler, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., during the tour.

RELATED: Newly-elected GOP members deny giving "reconnaissance" tours before Capitol attack. So who did

Rep. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey said less than a week after the insurrection that Republicans may have led rioters on "reconnaissance tours." On Jan. 12, 2021, Sherrill alleged that she'd seen "members of Congress who had groups coming through the Capitol that I saw on Jan. 5 for reconnaissance for the next day."

"The video evidence released today by the bipartisan January 6th Committee, combined with the constantly shifting narrative and misdirection from Representatives Barry Loudermilk and Rodney Davis, calls into question their dedication to our common oath as members of Congress," Sherrill said in a statement.

After Loudermilk's denial on Wednesday, Sherill told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that his "is not the only group that I saw. I saw groups down there, and I think what we've asked the Jan. 6 committee to do is understand what those people were doing in the Capitol complex."

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, and The New York Daily News.

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