JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A group of Jacksonville residents took to the skies Tuesday to air out grievances against U.S. Rep. John Rutherford over his objection to the certification of the 2020 presidential election results.
“Resign now Rutherford — you betrayed us,” read the banner towed by a plane soaring above the Interstate 95 corridor during the morning rush hour.
Rutherford is among 147 Republican lawmakers who challenged states’ election results during Jan. 6 certification proceedings, hours after a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in what escalated into a deadly riot. Five deaths resulted from the violence, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died of injuries suffered in the fray.
The author said, “Despite zero evidence of electoral fraud, John Rutherford signed into Trump’s ‘Big Lie’ & helped to incite an insurrection against our government & a violent assault on the very foundations of our democracy.” @RepRutherfordFL do you have a response? @wjxt4 pic.twitter.com/cpHivKsIPg— Zachery Lashway (@ZachLashway) January 12, 2021
The four individuals who paid $600 to fly the aerial banner over Jacksonville wished to remain anonymous but released a statement to News4Jax explaining the reasoning behind their message:
“Despite zero evidence of electoral fraud, John Rutherford signed into Trump’s ‘Big Lie’ and helped to incite an insurrection against our government and a violent assault on the very foundations of our democracy.”
Attempts to reach Rutherford for comment were unsuccessful. But in a tweet Tuesday afternoon, the congressman acknowledged Trump’s defeat, a reversal from his previous rhetoric about the election.
“I’m hearing from folks who believe President Trump still has a path to victory,” the tweet said. “As President Trump himself has said, the election is over and he will be leaving office with a peaceful transition of power on January 20th, 2021.”
In the days leading up to the Capitol siege, however, Rutherford joined a chorus of conservative voices questioning the legitimacy of six states’ election results and calling for Congress to intervene if the state legislatures did not decertify the results he said were tainted by “election anomalies.”
On January 6th, I will OBJECT. It is up to the state legislatures in the six contested states to move quickly and do what they know is right. See my full statement below. pic.twitter.com/87v1BmsRUT— Rep. John Rutherford (@RepRutherfordFL) January 1, 2021
“Objecting to state electors is not undemocratic,” Rutherford tweeted Jan. 4. “It’s part of a specific checks and balances process outlined in federal law and our constitution. If state executive branch leaders violated their own election laws, then that’s fraudulent. Congress should not allow it.”
Objecting to state electors is not undemocratic; it’s part of a specific checks and balances process outlined in federal law and our constitution. If state executive branch leaders violated their own election laws, then that’s fraudulent. Congress should not allow it.— Rep. John Rutherford (@RepRutherfordFL) January 4, 2021
As the violence unfolded around him Jan. 6, the former Jacksonville sheriff criticized the rioters ransacking the Capitol building and attacking the police officers charged with protecting it. Rutherford nevertheless stood by his objection once the proceedings resumed.
“The lawlessness taking place here in our nation’s capital is unacceptable and un-American,” he tweeted. “You cannot say you stand for law and order and then act this way. Pray for our law enforcement as they secure the area and keep us safe.”
Despite backing Trump’s efforts to challenge the election results, Rutherford congratulated President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their victory a day after the riot, saying he was praying for them “as they lead our great country.”
In a separate tweet Jan. 9, Rutherford mentioned Officer Sicknick on Law Enforcement Appreciation Day and offered his condolences to the officer’s loved ones. The remarks rang hollow to the group behind Tuesday’s banner, who believe the best way for Rutherford to honor Officer Sicknick is to step down.
On this #LawEnforcementAppreciationDay, we thank our heroes in blue who keep us safe each & every day. I especially want to recognize Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who tragically lost his life protecting the Capitol this week. May God grant his family & loved ones peace.— Rep. John Rutherford (@RepRutherfordFL) January 9, 2021
“In choosing party over country, Congressman Rutherford played a very real part in the events that led to Officer Sicknick’s death,” the group said. “Every day Rutherford remains in office is an affront to Officer Sicknick’s memory and legacy.”