Former President Donald Trump's months-long smear campaign against the validity of the 2020 election culminated in a deadly failed insurrection against the United States Capitol on January 6, when a mob of pro-Trump extremists stormed the United States Capitol, upending the joint Congressional session acknowledging Biden's victory.
While Americans were inundated with real time footage of the horrors of that day, few images stood out more than ones of Jake Chansley, also known as the "QAnon Shaman." Shirtless with animal horns adorning his head, Chansley made it all the way to the Senate floor just moments after then-Vice President Mike Pence had been evacuated.
Chansley was later arrested and his lawyer has since blamed Trump's election lies for Chansley's actions, claiming he was manipulated into thinking that storming the Capitol was the right thing to do.
The lawyer, Albert Watkins, deployed that defense once again in a wildly offensive rant to Matt Shuham of TPM.
After attributing Chansely's Aspergers as a reason for his susceptibility to Trump's lies, Watkins delivered a diatribe riddled with ableist slurs:
"A lot of these defendants — and I'm going to use this colloquial term, perhaps disrespectfully — but they're all f***ing short-bus people. These are people with brain damage, they're f***ing ret***ed, they're on the goddamn spectrum."
Watkins went on to say:
"But they're our brothers, our sisters, our neighbors, our coworkers — they're part of our country. These aren't bad people, they don't have prior criminal history. F**k, they were subjected to four-plus years of goddamn propaganda the likes of which the world has not seen since f***ing Hitler."
A number of Capitol rioters have pointed to Trump's constant lies that the election was "stolen" by Democrats engaging in election fraud as their reasoning for laying siege on the U.S. Capitol. Up until minutes before the riots, Trump urged them to "fight like hell" claiming they wouldn't "have a country anymore" if the fair and free election was allowed to be certified.
People were stunned and disgusted by Watkins' comments.
This is exactly what I would expect the lawyer for the Qanon Shaman to say. Unhinged vomit.
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) May 18, 2021
Wow. Albert Watkins is a horrible person.
— Pé (@4everNeverTrump) May 18, 2021
— Katie S. Phang (@KatiePhang) May 18, 2021
WOW. Didn't realize one could pack so many awful terms together in one description.
— Tara Jordan Radosevich (@jordantl) May 18, 2021
Many took issue with Chansley's lawyer using his client's position on the spectrum to justify mob violence.
No. Just no. Many, many of our most brilliant thinkers have been 'on the autism spectrum'. I am on the spectrum. I do not have brain damage. This is wrong and will do harm.
— Kersten Hamilton (@KerstenHamilton) May 18, 2021
I have Aspergers so it this works I will no longer be able to be found guilty of anything at all
— Heath Williamson (@Heat11W) May 18, 2021
regular reminder that autism is a disability, not a mental illness, there's no shame in having it and it's not an excuse for bad behavior
— Owl! at the Library 😴🧙♀️ (@SketchesbyBoze) May 18, 2021
Oh my god. As the mother of an adult son on the spectrum, I am deeply offended by this comment. My son is a caring, loving, sweet soul who is also extremely intelligent, even though he rode the "short bus" alll through elementary school.
— MadMomof2 (@dgjeeoppw) May 18, 2021
This is not the way to talk about people with intellectual disabilities or neurological differences. And the people I know who fall into either of those categories are not even remotely prone to mob violence.
— Erin (@doopergirl) May 18, 2021
Hopefully Watkins will choose his words more carefully when defending his client in court.