The family of a fallen officer snubbed top congressional Republicans on Tuesday at a ceremony held to honor law enforcement who defended the US Capitol during the January 6, 2021, insurrection.
In a moment of apparent tension, the family of US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who suffered strokes and died of natural causes one day after responding to the January 6 insurrection, refused to shake hands with either House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy or Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell when they accepted the medal.
Gladys Sicknick, mother of fallen officer Brian Sicknick, was asked by CNN why she didn’t shake McCarthy and McConnell’s hands at the gold medal ceremony.
“They’re just two-faced,” she said to CNN. “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 and stand here and sit with – it just, it just hurts.”
While McCarthy has visited former President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago several times, McConnell has been critical of Trump in the past and refused to side with the former president about the events of January 6, condemning him for his actions.
McConnell was asked about the incident later in the day on Tuesday. “I would respond by saying today we gave the gold medal to the heroes of January 6. We admire and respect them. They laid their lives on the line and that’s why we gave a gold medal today to the heroes of January 6.”
Congressional leaders had gathered Tuesday in the Capitol Rotunda to present the Congressional Gold Medal – the highest honor Congress can bestow – to the officers of the US Capitol Police and the DC Metropolitan Police Department who defended the Capitol on January 6.
“January 6 was a day of horror and heartbreak. It is also a moment of extraordinary heroism,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “Staring down deadly violence and despicable bigotry, our law enforcement officers bravely stood in the breach ensuring that democracy survived on that dark day.”
“So on behalf of the United States Congress and the American people, it is my honor to present the Congressional Gold Medal to the United States Capitol Police, the Metropolitan Police and every hero of January 6, from every agent that responded that day.”
The Senate unanimously passed the legislation via voice vote, and while there was wide bipartisan support in the House for the awarding of the medals, 21 House Republicans voted against the legislation. The awarding of the medal comes just ahead of the House select committee investigating January 6 expecting to release their final report after an 18-month investigation of the insurrection.
Four medals will be minted – one displayed at the headquarters of the US Capitol Police, one at MPD headquarters, another in the Capitol and a fourth will be sent to the Smithsonian Institution.
US Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger accepted the award on behalf of his force, and paid special tribute to the DC officers “who came to our aid that day.”
“Words cannot adequately express our gratitude for what you did to help our officers by joining in the fight that was taking place,” Manger said.
McCarthy, who called on former President Donald Trump to “accept his share of responsibility” for the violence that was visited upon the Capitol but has since walked back those comments, said during the medal ceremony that “we are forever indebted” to the officers for their heroism, and that “today we take an important step towards repaying the debt.”
“I hope every American will see this award and feel the gratitude for every law enforcement officer who answer the call of duty every day, but especially the Capitol Police officers and the MPD,” McCarthy said. “
Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee acknowledged that for many officers that filled the Rotunda, the ceremony marked their first time in the Capitol since the insurrection.
“The urgent request for the Metropolitan Police Department to assist in defending the US Capitol is something that you will carry with you for the rest of your careers and lives,” he told his officers. “You responded like you do each and every day, without hesitation, with courage and an unwavering duty to uphold your oath.”
“You did not give up. You did not give in. And yes, you were vastly outnumbered. But you were determined, exhausted and injured. It will show your sweat and your tears that mark these realms where we stand today,” Contee said. “You show the world just a glimpse of what we are.”
US Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, who was seen leading a mob away from the Senate chamber doors on January 6, was joined by fellow USCP Officer Harry Dunn, MPD Officers Daniel Hodges, and retired MPD officer Michael Fanone during the ceremony. The four have also testified before congressional committees about the events of that day.
The legislation awarding the medal named several individual officers, including Goodman, for their valor, and paid tribute to the officers who lost their lives to suicide in the days and weeks following the insurrection.
“Capitol Police Officers Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood, Metropolitan Police Department Officer Jeffrey Smith, and those who sustained injuries, and the courage of Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, exemplify the patriotism and the commitment of Capitol Police officers, and those of other law enforcement agencies, to risk their lives in service of our country,” the bill text states.
Rep. Liz Cheney, as she was headed into the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony for the officers who defended the Capitol on January 6, ripped into the 21 House Republicans who voted against the bill.
“I don’t see how anybody with any self-respect could vote against honoring the brave men and women who fought and defended the Capitol and the Constitution that day,” Cheney told CNN.
Cheney also tore into McCarthy for not condemning former Trump over calling to terminate the Constitution and having dinner with White nationalist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes and rapper Kanye West at his Mar-a-Lago estate in November.
“There’s no question at this point that he’s willing to abandon all principle, including those that are the most fundamentally important about who we are as a nation, for his own craven political ambition,” she said.
Asked what she thinks of today’s Republican Party, Cheney said she thinks they are in a dangerous place.
“The House Republican conference right now is really at the mercy of people in our conference who have expressed anti-Semitic, white supremacist views,” she said. “I think it’s a very dangerous thing. And I think that a real leader would have rejected those views, and would be presenting to the American people the kind of fight for principle on which the party has long been based.”
CNN’s Manu Raju, Morgan Rimmer, Melanie Zanona and Paul LeBlanc contributed.