An angry crowd accosted Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Friday at the airport with shouts of “Traitor!” and baseless claims of a rigged election, in viral-video moments underscoring how even longtime Trump allies have become targets of a conspiracy movement promoted by the president.
“Lindsey Graham, you are a traitor to the country,” one woman yelled in a minute-long video as Graham kept walking while people followed him, shouting profanity and filming with cellphones. “You know if was rigged! . . . You garbage human being.”
“It’s gonna be like this forever, wherever you go for the rest of your life,” she said, repeatedly demanding an “audit” of the vote.
Flanked by men in police vests, Graham headed for an exit as a man said, “You don’t represent us anymore.”
Like many Republicans in Congress, Graham once encouraged the president to fight his election loss, suggesting that widespread fraud could be at play. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, accused Graham of floating an idea to toss wide swaths of legally cast mail ballots in the crucial state, an allegation Graham denied as “ridiculous.”
But Graham this week denounced pressure to overturn the results of the presidential election, as a shaken GOP faced an escalation of Trump’s fantasies – the fact that a violent mob angry about Trump’s loss had overrun the U.S. Capitol to halt certification of the vote.
Friday’s confrontation at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., captured the virulent response among those still peddling baseless claims of electoral wrongdoing, three days after videos showed Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, a vocal Trump critic, being heckled by Trump supporters at an airport and on his flight.
While Wednesday’s deadly storming of the Capitol has pushed Republicans in Congress to criticize the president – with Graham saying Trump “needs to understand that his actions were the problem, not the solution” – there are signs the views of many Trump supporters around the country have not changed.
One video shared by Politico reporter Daniel Lippman captures Friday’s airport hecklers chanting “traitor!” as they follow Graham.
Another video was posted to Twitter by Mindy Robinson, a self-described “conservative activist and political commentator” with half a million followers whose blog posts peddle unfounded claims of voter fraud.
“Lindsey Graham just made the mistake of walking by me and a mass of angry patriots at the airport in DC,” Robinson tweeted. “All America wants is for you to AUDIT OUR VOTE and purge this election of this massive corruption . . . and you won’t do it.”
“We’re not letting this ‘slide’ so expect more of this,” she finished.
The clip accumulated millions of views even as Twitter eventually stopped users from interacting with Robinson’s post. “This claim of election fraud is disputed, and this Tweet can’t be replied to, Retweeted or liked due to a risk of violence,” reads the warning label appended by Friday afternoon.
Graham had criticized the idea of an electoral commission to examine unsupported claims of voting irregularities but until Wednesday been unclear about whether he supported these challenges.
Then, thousands traveled to Washington at the president’s urging, eventually going on a destructive rampage through the Capitol building and forcing lawmakers’ evacuation. A woman was fatally shot by police; three more people died of “medical emergencies”; a Capitol Police officer died after “physically engaging with protesters,” according to law enforcement.
Speaking Wednesday from the Senate floor, Graham said he would have no part in further efforts to hold up the electoral process.
“Count me out. Enough is enough,” he said, as some fellow senators backed off their intentions to object to vote certification.
Graham has also criticized the pressure on Vice President Mike Pence, another politician long loyal to Trump who is now under fire from some of the president’s most ardent supporters. Trump and many of Wednesday’s rioters blamed Pence for not using his ceremonial role on Wednesday to overturn the election, even though Pence could not do so if he wanted to.
For weeks, outrage over the president’s loss in November has translated into violent threats toward officials and politicians involved in the electoral process, the latest instance of public servants being targeted for their work.
Asked if Graham has received threats related to the election or has concerns about his safety, a spokesman for the senator, Kevin Bishop, declined to discuss “security issues.”
Bishop did not comment on Friday’s incident beyond saying some people involved appeared to be supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which includes accusations of politicians’ orchestrating a child sex-trafficking ring. “Sex trafficker!” someone yelled at Graham in one video.
On Twitter, even Graham’s critics called the airport encounter unsettling.
The video is “disturbing because it shows how volatile and ultimately dangerous these people are even to their erstwhile allies,” wrote Jelani Cobb, a staff writer at the New Yorker.
– – –
The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips contributed to this report.