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Video of Josh Hawley fleeing from Capitol rioters proves that he's an opportunist

A few short seconds during the Jan. 6 hearing accomplished what Hawley's political adversaries have been unable to do since he showed up in Washington: prove he’s a phony. 

Washington is full of tough people. Currently, there are 91 members of Congress with military experience. Moreover, there are several former first responders: two former sheriffs, one police chief, three other police officers, one former fire chief and a former firefighter. There are also two ex-CIA employees and one FBI agent.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri isn’t one of Washington’s tough guys, but he’s certainly tried to fashion himself as one. 

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri isn’t one of Washington’s tough guys, but he’s certainly tried to fashion himself as one.

Perhaps the most significant way he’s attempted this is by being the first senator to announce his opposition to the counting of Electoral College votes in December 2020 — a position he never wavered from even after militants supporting Donald Trump had stormed the Capitol leaving several dead in their wake.

But during Thursday’s prime-time Jan. 6 hearing, the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot showed the world that Hawley was a national coward when it introduced footage of the senator taken during the Jan. 6 attack.  

The same prep-school, Stanford and Yale educated senator who was photographed with his fist in the air on the morning of Jan. 6 in a show of solidarity with the feverish MAGA crowds that were assembling around the Capitol was later caught on video desperately sprinting away from rioters as they descended on the Capitol.

For effect, the Jan. 6 House committee even rewound the clip, played it back in slow motion and pointed a spotlight at the senator in his slim-fit suit scurrying away in a panic.

This wasn’t a good look for Hawley, but it may have been the most honest one the American public has seen to date of this young politician with rabid presidential aspirations. The footage showed Hawley as nothing more than a crass opportunist. He was fine raising his fist to egg on Trump supporters when securely ensconced behind security and metal barricades, but as they closed in on him, it was a different story.

And that pretty much sums up the entirety of Hawley’s rise on the national political scene — one in which he has made a pattern of ruffling feathers of fellow Republicans and biting his mentors in the back as he has clawed his way to national prominence.  

But Thursday’s images, in just a few short seconds, accomplished what his political adversaries have been unable to do ever since Hawley showed up in Washington: show that he’s a phony. 

Although he eventually brought himself around to condemning the violence of the insurrection, Hawley has never backed down from his stance that the election was stolen — despite there being absolutely no evidence supporting those claims. 

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As a former attorney general and Supreme Court law clerk with impeccable academic credentials, Hawley, too, knows that these claims are unfounded, but he chooses to ignore the truth in pursuit of his personal political ambitions, leveraging these falsehoods as a way to cozy up the party’s MAGA base. “I will never apologize for giving voice to the millions of Missourians and Americans who have concerns about the integrity of our elections,” Hawley said in a statement one day after violent Trump supporters breached the Capitol. 

Naturally, the internet has grabbed onto Hawley’s ridiculousness and memified his sprint to safety at the Capitol, even laying down apropos tracks to the clips of Hawley on the run. My personal favorite is The Lincoln Project’s version, with Hawley sprinting to the tune of “Running With the Devil,” although late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert’s choice of a cartoon sound effect comes in as a close second.

In response to all this attention in the current news cycle, Hawley is, unsurprisingly, showing no shame by doing what he has done all during the post-November 2020 election imbroglio — leveraging his newfound meme fame to fundraise for his campaign

On Friday morning, he began hawking a new 11-ounce ceramic coffee mug on which his famous fist in the air is accompanied by a macho riff off the Missouri state motto: Show-Me Strong!

Given everything that’s happened in the past 18 months, it’s easy to forget the pivotal role that Hawley played in supporting Trump’s effort to upend the peaceful transfer of power — especially when the senator still has a job in Washington. But, whatever the repercussions of Thursday night’s video back in his home state of Missouri, Hawley’s new highlight reel didn’t play well at his workplace. 

His Jan. 6 antics, including his now infamous getaway, have now made him the butt of endless jokes in Washington. Thursday’s hearing room erupted in laughter after seeing his mad dash past Capitol police in search of safety — not exactly mirroring the “tough guy” image he had been cultivating as a presidential hopeful.