Dozens of North Carolina Democrats staged a walkout after the House welcomed as its newest member Republican Donnie Loftis, who had admitted to being present during the 6 January Capitol riots but denied participating in it.

In a now-deleted Facebook post, Mr Loftis of Gaston County had written that he was close enough when rioters breached the Capitol to be “gassed three times.”

On Monday night, only a few Democrats stayed in the house as Mr Loftis took oath. The former army veteran was elected last month to replace Republican Dana Bumgardner who died of Covid-19 in October, reported Associated Press (AP).

In an interview to WRAL in October, Mr Loftis, however, denied his role in the Capitol Hill rioting.

“I had absolutely zero involvement in the rioting and categorically condemn the storming of our Capitol building that day,” he had said.

Mr Loftis added that he was “surprised and disappointed” that others behaved inappropriately.

In a statement, North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Bobbie Richardson hit out at the state’s Republican caucus for the inclusion of the “Covid-19 conspiracy theorist and Capitol insurrection participant.”

“It has been almost 11 months since violent rioters breached the halls of the United States Capitol in attempts to undermine our Democracy,” Mr Richardson said.

“Today marks a new low for General Assembly Republicans, because instead of condemning those actions and rejecting the rhetoric that incites violence, they are welcoming a Capitol insurrection participant with open arms.”

Democratic representative Grier Martin of Wake County, who was not in the chamber Monday night for other reasons, told AP that there was “no way I was going to be in the room when that guy took an oath to join the House of Representatives.”

On 6 January, former president Donald Trump’s supporters breached the Capitol resulting in violence that left at least five people dead, and hundreds injured.

After the session on Monday night, Mr Loftis refused to comment and told reporters that he was honoured to serve District 109 and would like to spend time with his family who were present there, reported agencies.

House speaker Tim Moore said Mr Loftis was a “good man” and he had known him for over two decades.

Mr Moore added that given FBI scrutiny of the Capitol attack, if Mr Loftis had done anything illegal that day “we’d of heard it by now.”

This is not the first time that Mr Loftis has been in the eye of a storm. In May he resigned from the chairmanship of his local health board after he was questioned over social media posts.

In now-deleted Facebook updates, Mr Loftis had posted conspiracy theories and said Covid-19 guidelines that asked people to stay at home were “tyrannical,” reported WRAL.

Source link