Michigan state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey has been forced to apologise after he was caught calling the Capitol riot a “hoax”.
Shirkey, who has previously served in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, was recorded pedalling numerous conspiracy theories about the riot in conversation with other Hillsdale County Republicans. A recording of their discussion, which took place in a diner, was uploaded to YouTube.
At one point in the hour-long video, Shirkey can be heard saying of the riot:
“That wasn’t Trump’s people. That’s been a hoax from day one. That was all prearranged. It was arranged by somebody who was funding it. … It was all staged.”
At another point, he claims:
“I think there are people above elected officials. There are puppeteers.”
Shirkey apologised for his remarks after they were reported in the Detroit Metro Times. He said:
“I said some things in a videoed conversation that are not fitting for the role I am privileged to serve. I own that. I have many flaws. Being passionate coupled with an occasional lapse in restraint of tongue are at least two of them. I regret the words I chose, and I apologise for my insensitive comments.”
Prior to this, Shirkey told The New York Times that the Capitol riot was “people feeling oppressed and depressed, responding to what they thought was government just stealing their lives from them”. He added: “I’m not endorsing and supporting their actions but I understand where they come from.”
Shirkey is not the only Republican lawmaker who has tried to claim that the Capitol riot was staged. Former governor Sarah Palin, senator Matt Gaetz and Texas attorney general Ken Paxton all blamed the violence on members of “Antifa” masquerading as Trump supporters.
The FBI confirmed that there was “no indication” of this and indeed many high-profile Trump supporters were identified and caught in the riot’s aftermath, including Richard Barnett who sat at Nancy Pelosi's desk and the "QAnon shaman" Jake Angeli.