Incoming NC lawmaker was at Jan. 6 US Capitol protests, riot
Posted October 22, 2021 1:26 p.m. EDT
Updated November 1, 2021 5:45 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — The Republican Party's new appointee to the North Carolina House was at the U.S. Capitol for the Jan. 6 protest-turned-riot and said he was close enough to the Capitol breach to get hit repeatedly with tear gas.
Incoming Rep. Donnie Loftis was the Gaston County Republican Party's choice this week to replace late Rep. Dana Bumgardner, who died earlier this month.
Loftis posted a picture of himself to Facebook ahead of the Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal Rally," saying he was on a bus headed to Washington, D.C. He followed up with comment, seen in a screenshot provided to WRAL News overnight by a source who said the posts have been deleted.
“I got gassed three times and was at the entrance when they breached the door,” Loftis, an Army veteran, posted at the time. “I spoke to many service members, and we all agreed that we didn’t want to be there, but we had no other choice. They don’t get it that they work for us. And I mean that in a respectful way.
“My Oath of Enlistment has the phrase ‘both foreign and domestic,’" he continued. “We didn’t think it would actually be domestic.”
Asked about the posts Friday, Loftis said via text message that his involvement was strictly peaceful.
"On Jan. 6, 2020, [sic] while I peacefully exercised my first amendment rights in front of the US Capitol, I was surprised and disappointed to watch others storm the entrance as violence ensued," he said. "I had absolutely zero involvement in the rioting and categorically condemn the storming of our Capitol building that day."
When WRAL News pointed to his change in tenor since the initial Facebook posts and asked for a phone conversation, Loftis said the statement "is my final word on the matter."
The North Carolina Republican Party declined comment through a spokesperson Friday, as did House Speaker Tim Moore.
Under state law, the local party picks candidates to fill vacancies in the General Assembly. Jonathan Fletcher, chairman of the Gaston County Republican Party, said Loftis' trip to Washington didn't come during the nomination speeches or discussions.
"Knowing how thoroughly the FBI has investigated the January 6th incident I trust that, if Mr. Loftis had been involved in anything illegal or improper, the FBI would have brought charges against him," Fletcher said in an email Friday.
Loftis likely will be sworn in soon, and he told WRAL News on Thursday that he plans to seek a full two-year term when he's up for election next year.
Loftis is a former Gaston County commissioner and a 30-year Army veteran who served in Iraq. He also chaired CaroMont Health's board of directors until he resigned last year over social media posts that, among other things, complained of the "tyranny" of business closures ordered by Gov. Roy Cooper.
Loftis told WRAL that he resigned to spare CaroMont.
"I regret that CaroMont Health was disparaged," he said. "I do not regret standing up and saying your personal freedoms are important."