Sen. Josh Hawley, the Missouri Republican who raised his fist in solidarity with a crowd of Trump supporters outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, was forced to flee the rioters in new footage presented Thursday night by the House Jan. 6 committee in a televised hearing.
Hawley can be seen running through a hallway in the Capitol and then quickly making his way down a staircase with colleagues. The video, which lit up social media shortly after it was aired, was taken just hours after the senator was photographed saluting protesters massing at security gates near the building.
Rep. Elaine Luria, a Democratic member of the Jan. 6 committee, cited panel interviews with law enforcement in describing how Hawley’s salute “riled up the crowd” and made it harder for officers to protect the complex from the pro-Trump mob.
Not long after Hawley made the gesture, barriers on the east side of the Capitol were breached, she said.
"Later that day, Sen. Hawley fled after those protesters he helped to rile up stormed the Capitol," Luria said. She noted that many of the people he saluted joined the mob after breaking through the barricades.
Footage of Hawley fleeing during the riot drew bursts of laughter in the committee hearing room.
It also touched off a flood of memes on social media, including a tweet by former Democratic Sen. Al Franken showing Hawley running back and forth to the theme song of the "The Benny Hill Show." The Lincoln Project, meanwhile, used the theme song from the running movie "Chariots of Fire" and "Eye of the Tiger" from "Rocky III." And in classic Twitter fashion, several people soundtracked the clip using the "Curb Your Enthusiasm" theme song.
It also led to outright mockery, with Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., referring to Hawley as "Fistpump McRunpants" and Democratic National Committee chair Jaime Harrison tweeting out footage of Tom Hanks running in the movie "Forrest Gump." "Where is Josh Hawley this morning? #StillRunning," Harrison wrote.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., noted that Hawley "chose to fundraise off his encouraging and fist-pumping the violent mob, and even sold merchandise of himself doing so from then through *this year.*"
Hawley, who was being interviewed on Fox News on an unrelated subject during the hearing, responded to all the criticism on Friday morning by tweeting out a link to campaign merchandise — a coffee mug featuring a photo of the fist pump that says, "Show-Me Strong!"
Following the riot, Hawley condemned the violence at the Capitol and said he was simply objecting to the electors during the counting of electoral votes to give voice to his constituents in Missouri, a state that went for then-President Donald Trump by 15 percentage points in 2020.
NBC News has reached out to Hawley’s office for comment on the new footage.
In remarks outside the hearing room after seeing the footage, Washington, D.C., police officer Michael Fanone, who was violently assaulted Jan. 6, called Hawley a "bitch" for running away.
"And the fist pump, combined with what he did in the immediate aftermath, just shows the true character, or lack thereof," he told Politico, which tweeted a video of his comments.
"You see the way that these guys perform in public and then what they are in reality," Fanone added. "You get a lot of that nonsense up here on Capitol Hill with these members of Congress that have become like a caricature in the media. But in reality, they have no character, they have no honor, they have no integrity, and the way they behave outside of the camera's eye is very different."
Thursday's prime-time hearing offered a timeline of the 187 minutes between the end of Trump’s speech at the Ellipse on Jan. 6 to when he tweeted a video telling rioters to “go home.” The attack on the Capitol unfolded during that period.
The committee heard live testimony from a pair of Trump White House aides, Sarah Matthews and Matthew Pottinger, who resigned following Trump's actions Jan. 6. The House panel also presented never-before-seen outtakes from a speech Trump gave Jan. 7, with one showing him stopping and telling aides off-camera, “I don’t want to say the election is over.”