‘A hard thing to watch’: Celeste Maloy blames Trump supporters for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in 2021 interview

‘We don’t get behind dictators,’ the GOP special congressional election candidate said in a video interview shortly after the attack.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Candidate Celeste Maloy answers a question during a debate at the KUED studios on the University of Utah campus on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023. Shortly after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, Maloy, a Republican, blamed Trump supporters for the riot.

Shortly after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, Republican Celeste Maloy compared former President Donald Trump to a dictator. She also shot down conspiracy theories that popped up after the assault, saying it was Trump supporters who were responsible for the violence.

Maloy, the GOP nominee in this month’s special congressional election, was a staffer in former Utah Rep. Chris Stewart’s office when a mob of Trump supporters forcibly attempted to take over the U.S. Capitol. In a video interview conducted by the Washington County Republican Women sometime just weeks after Jan. 6, Maloy recounted that even before the attack was over conspiracy theories about who was responsible had already begun to percolate.

“Even while I was still locked down, I started getting a lot of phone calls from people I know asking if this was a false flag attack,” Maloy recalled in the video published Feb. 1, 2021, being asked. “‘Is this really antifa? Trump supporters don’t do this.’”

“I spent a lot of time that day just telling people, ‘Yeah, these are Trump supporters,’” she said.

In the weeks after his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden, Trump told his supporters that the election had been stolen from him. On Jan. 6, 2021, the day Congress met to certify Biden’s Electoral College win, Trump delivered a speech near the White House, where he told a mob of his supporters to head to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” Five people died, and dozens were injured in the violence that followed.

Many Republicans and conservative media have attempted to downplay the violence or shift the blame, suggesting Jan 6. was a “false flag” operation meant to make Republicans look bad or that antifa — far-left-leaning groups — carried it out.

“The fact that the actual Confederate Army never got into the U.S. Capitol, but we had Trump supporters carrying a Confederate flag into the Capitol in 2021 was sort of soul-crushing,” Maloy said. “It was a hard thing to watch.”

Maloy, who won the Republican nomination to succeed her boss in Congress, compared the attack to something you would more likely see from an authoritarian government.

“Americans support the institutions of our country more than we support people. We don’t get behind dictators,” Maloy said. “Our loyalty isn’t even primarily to the Republican Party; it’s to America. And watching people go into the Capitol like that felt like they were proving me wrong on all those beliefs.”

More recently, Maloy called the impeachment of Trump in response to the Jan. 6 riot “political grandstanding.”

“Republicans are the party of law and order — and I am a law-and-order Republican. I believe the video where I talk about January 6th is clear on that,” Maloy said in an email statement to The Salt Lake Tribune.

She did not answer questions about whether she stood by her comments suggesting Trump’s effort to overturn his election loss were comparable to a dictator.

Maloy’s former boss took a different stance before and after the insurrection. Then, Stewart supported Trump’s falsehoods about election fraud, ultimately joining with more than a hundred of his Republican colleagues in voting to reject the electoral votes Pennsylvania — an elector-rich swing state.

After the assault on the Capitol, Stewart asserted Trump supporters were not responsible for what happened. In a separate video posted to the same YouTube account, Maloy’s former boss suggested the Jan. 6 attackers were not part of a pro-Trump group.

“They were not Trump supporters. The normal folks who were there to support the president stood back. They didn’t rush the Capitol,” Stewart said. “This was another kind of group. They were there to incite violence and hurt people.”

Stewart’s claim made shortly after the attack does not withstand scrutiny. Many of the rioters had posted on social media that they had come to Washington that day specifically to support Trump. Earlier this summer, more than 1,100 people had been charged in connection with the attacks, The Hill reported.

Trump has made an effort, according to the Houston Chronicle, to label those supporters incarcerated for alleged crimes stemming from the Jan. 6 siege not as “prisoners,” but as “hostages.”