It should be impossible to avoid the Jan. 6 committee hearings — especially if you’re a politician asking people to vote for you in November.
But it seems U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, the Republican nominee for North Carolina’s open U.S. Senate seat, wants to do just that.
Since the first hearing, which occurred on June 9, Budd has tweeted plenty of times from his personal and official accounts. He’s torn into the “Biden/Beasley agenda,” the left’s supposedly radical policies, high gas prices and “Bidenflation.” He’s posted pictures with Ben Carson and North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, and even shared a meme poking fun at the Biden administration.
But he’s said nary a word about the conspiracy-fueled insurrection incited by the former president, nor the hearings that are seeking to remind us of it.
It’s not as if Budd doesn’t want you to know that he’s an ardent supporter of Donald Trump. He’s quick to tout the coveted endorsement he received from the former president; a photo of Budd and Trump standing side-by-side, each flashing a grin and a thumbs-up, is pretty much the first thing you see on Budd’s website and social media profiles.
So it’s hard to imagine that Budd would openly criticize Trump, especially in the middle of a competitive Senate race. But he doesn’t seem willing to stand up and defend him, either.
That seems to divert from the plan concocted by Trump and his allies, who have been plotting a “counterprogramming” strategy to undermine the committee and its findings. Trump himself has shared a flurry of posts on his social media platform, Truth Social, rebuking the testimony of key witnesses, including his own daughter.
The Republican National Committee circulated a one-page memo outlining key messaging points, which include defining “Democrats as the real election deniers” and branding the hearings as “rigged.” Plenty of GOP lawmakers have answered the call, including North Carolina congressman Dan Bishop, who has been working overtime on Twitter to mock and discredit the hearings.
Yet nothing from Budd, the steadfast Trump loyalist who notched a major win in a contentious Republican primary due in large part to Trump’s surprise endorsement. To be fair, Budd has done his part to distract from the hearings by doubling down on the issues Republicans think are more important, such as inflation and rising fuel prices. But that’s not exactly a defense — or a denouncement — of the unsettling behavior the committee has detailed in its hearings.
Throughout his Senate campaign, Budd has largely avoided any mention of the election lies he once boldly supported. He’s typically evasive or unresponsive when asked about his refusal to acknowledge President Joe Biden’s victory in 2020. It’s especially hard to figure out where Budd stands now — he didn’t participate in debates during the primary, and rarely speaks to the media. (He has admitted, once, that Biden won “fair and square,” but walked that claim back in a different interview.)
Neither Budd’s campaign nor his congressional office responded to questions from the Editorial Board regarding his thoughts on the Jan. 6 hearings and whether he’d changed his mind about voter fraud in the 2020 election.
Perhaps Budd recognizes that outright excusing Trump’s attempted coup wouldn’t be the best way to win a general election in a purple state like North Carolina. Trump’s endorsement has already helped him lock down the Republican base. Now he needs to appeal to independents and moderates who might not be as receptive to the Trump election lie. But that kind of strategy is a disservice to voters, who deserve to know if they’re supporting an election denier.
With democracy itself on the ballot in November, Budd should be frank with voters and tell them where he stands. Does he regret peddling lies and attempting to reject the outcome of a completely legitimate election? Or does he still think that what happened on Jan. 6 was “nothing”?
Silence isn’t a sign of leadership — it’s a sign of cowardice. If Budd has had a change of heart, he should say so, and explain why he still supports the former president anyway. If not, it’s time to own it.