After Capitol riot, Rep. Tom Reed denounces 'extreme ideologies' and talk of war, violence

Reed addresses voter sentiments in the Southern Tier

Chris Potter
The Evening Tribune

WASHINGTON — Rep. Tom Reed was among Donald Trump’s earliest supporters in Congress, endorsing the then-businessman and reality television star’s bid for the White House in early 2016. 

A year ago, the Corning Republican was named honorary co-chair of Trump’s reelection campaign in New York. 

Last week, though, Reed resisted calls from the president and GOP leaders in the 23rd Congressional District in New York to reject certification of the electoral votes, refusing to join 138 other House Republicans who lodged objections Wednesday night. 

Reed said county chairs in his district raised issues of alleged voter fraud in the run-up to the vote. Reed was communicating with local GOP leaders via email as early as 1 a.m. Wednesday, conversations that continued through 9 a.m. — two hours before the start of Trump’s “Save America Rally.”

Election Fact Check:What's true and what's false about the 2020 election

A few hours later, rioters breached the Capitol Building and forced the evacuation of Vice President Mike Pence and both houses of Congress. 

Reed said his comments to the district’s GOP leaders echoed his public statements, that the Constitution does not give Congress the power to overrule states and their designated electors. Further, the claims of fraud remain unsubstantiated. 

In this image from video, Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., speaks as the House reconvenes to debate the objection to confirm the Electoral College vote from Arizona, after protesters stormed into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (House Television via AP)

“Sixty judicial proceedings investigated these issues and not one found substance to the fraud claim,” Reed said. “I offered that as a response in not agreeing to the objection to the electors. That doesn’t mean those individuals have not come to that conclusion, and that we need to recognize that. 

“To those individuals, I will say I understand where you’re at. I don’t judge you, I respect that decision. I will disagree with it. I will say I don’t see that in the evidence, and hopefully we can then move forward and say look, we’re at that point where there’s going to be a new president. What we need to do is engage in the election process, not walk away from it.” 

Disengaging from disinformation 

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed

How can Republicans win more voters when the head of the party and other GOP leaders insist the election wasn't legitimate and votes didn't matter? 

Reed condemned the “mob rule” mentality that was on display at the Capitol, rejecting the notion that force was the answer to a loss at the ballot box. Though no constituents have yet been identified among the scores arrested in connection with the riot, the congressman has seen similar sentiments professed in the Southern Tier. 

Reed said he pushed back against the notion that “the only path forward is war” expressed by some in the district over the past few months. 

“I’ve heard that rhetoric. That type of rhetoric was shared with me on a couple of my tele-town halls and from some of the folks that I highly regard, in regards to people back in the district,” Reed said. “As I told them, that is not a path that we can pursue. That is not a path that I will support. … War and violence is something we can never pursue, regardless of who our candidate is, regardless of if our candidate doesn’t win the presidency of the United States.” 

A common thread among many of the rioters is a belief in the QAnon conspiracy theory, according to an Associated Press analysis of more than 120 people either facing criminal charges related to the Jan. 6 unrest or who were later identified through photographs and videos.

A New York man arrested at the Capitol, William Arthur Leary of Utica, told the AP that he strongly believes the election was stolen from Trump. One of his main sources of information was Infowars, a far-right conspiracy site. 

Reed said in today’s digital age, citizens must be careful and not assume everything they see on the internet is true. 

“As I encouraged my committee chairs who were sharing some information with me that I was very concerned about, I say you must trust but verify that information you’re relying upon,” Reed said. “It’s hard to do that work, but that’s an obligation we as citizens in this society have to accept. We have to do the work of trust but verify and hold folks accountable based on the facts and the data that we can ascertain for ourselves. That is the collective wisdom of the people that I still respect. When they do that, the American people are very wise as a group.” 

What’s next for the Republican Party? 

Reed, who has won each race in the 23rd District since 2010, sees a path forward for the Republican Party post-2020. He has not joined calls from Democrats and a few Republicans for President Trump to resign or be removed from office. 

It appears Trump will maintain considerable influence within the Republican National Committee. The RNC last week re-elected a pair of Trump allies, Ronna McDaniel and Tommy Hicks, as party co-chairs. 

During an appearance on CNN with Anderson Cooper last week, Reed pushed back against the suggestion that the GOP has become the party of Trump. 

“I think the Republican Party is a broad party,” Reed said, noting his affinity for Ronald Reagan. “It’s not one individual president, it’s not President Trump, it’s not Ronald Reagan, it’s an ideology that we believe in. All we have to do is lead with it and embrace it. If people want to corrupt it, we challenge them and say that’s not the party, that’s not what we stand for. We put it up against the Democratic side. Who ultimately makes the decision, and that’s the beauty of America, is the people.” 

In a show of unity following the attack on the Capitol, Reed crossed over to the Democratic side of the aisle Wednesday night in voting to certify the election, standing beside Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), his fellow co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus. 

However, Reed promised to “passionately disagree” with Democrats on policy matters while continuing to fight for traditional Republican ideals — even if that means pushing back against some members of his own party.   

In this image from video, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., right, listens as Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., speaks as the House reconvenes to debate the objection to confirm the Electoral College vote from Arizona, after protesters stormed into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (House Television via AP)

“If colleagues in the Republican Party want to embrace those more extreme ideologies, that’s their right, but I will reject that,” Reed said. “I will offer a competing vision for what I believe should be the Republican Party of tomorrow. That is a Republican Party based on the power of the people, and the power not that the government is going to guarantee you an outcome in life that is positive, but that you have an opportunity to succeed on your own merits.” 

Reed came of age in Reagan’s Republican Party, when Reagan won a landslide re-election in 1984 with 59% of the popular vote. Just one other Republican, Reagan successor George H.W. Bush, has earned more than 51% of the popular vote in the last 40 years. 

Reed would like to see the GOP once again become a party that can capture a broad coalition of the national electorate. 

“I think the Republican Party will rise out of this situation and we will lead the country in a way that offers that vision that Ronald Reagan did. … We need to focus on winning the national popular vote when it comes to a presidential election,” Reed said. “I love the electoral college, I will defend the electoral college, and that’s my vote that I put on the record (Wednesday) under the Constitution, but one of the things I want to be part of is a Republican Party that wins the national popular vote, which shows me the American people have given us their trust and we’ve won their hearts and minds.”