WASHINGTON — Before testifying about his harrowing experience in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, police officer Michael Fanone was treated to a paid vacation to Myrtle Beach courtesy of the area’s congressman and a few of his colleagues.
U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, R-Myrtle Beach, told The Post and Courier he and some of his friends in Congress felt sympathy for Fanone after meeting him and wanted to do what they could to help him recharge after he was beaten during the riots.
So they pooled some personal funds together and Rice contacted some of businesses in his district, who also offered to pitch in with discounts, so Fanone could travel along with his family on an expense-paid trip to the coastal South Carolina city.
“I think they had a wonderful vacation, and I think he needed it,” Rice said.
Among other activities during their week in his district, Rice hooked the family up with passes to a range of attractions, including Myrtle Waves Water Park, Ripley’s Aquarium, Alligator Adventure and the Grand Prix go-kart center.
Fanone did not respond to requests for comment about the vacation. But Rice said he enjoyed spending a day by the pool with Fanone and his family after their planned boat trip was scuttled due to technical glitches.
After Fanone returned to Washington this week, where he works as an officer in the city’s police department, he delivered impassioned testimony to a new U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riots along with three other officers who were injured.
Fanone detailed how crowds of angry supporters of former President Donald Trump dragged him down the Capitol steps, beat him and shocked him with stun guns, relenting only when he yelled he has children, at which point a few others pulled him to safety. He suffered a heart attack, concussion and traumatic brain injury.
As he retold the story, Fanone grew particularly heated about how some of the lawmakers he shielded had downplayed the severity of the incident in the months since.
“I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room,” he testified. “But too many are now telling me that hell doesn’t exist — or that hell actually wasn’t that bad.”
Fanone then hammered his fist on the table in an apparent display of anger.
“The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful,” he testified.
Some of the other lawmakers who helped Rice fund Fanone’s vacation were, like Rice, among the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for his alleged role in the Capitol assault.
They included U.S. Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, Peter Meijer of Michigan, Dan Newhouse of Washington, John Katko of New York, David Valadao of California and Fred Upton of Michigan. Rice said the group has remained in close contact since their consequential impeachment votes.
Kinzinger and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., are now the only two Republican members on the Democratic-led panel investigating Jan. 6 after a tussle between Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
Pelosi rejected two of McCarthy’s suggested members for the panel, so he withdrew his entire slate in response, leaving only Kinzinger and Cheney still willing to serve on the committee.
In addition to his impeachment vote, Rice initially voted to create an independent commission to investigate the riots. But that effort was shot down by Republicans in the U.S. Senate, prompting Democrats to create an in-house committee within Congress to launch the probe.
Rice said he was disappointed by how the situation turned out.
“I think it’s a real shame,” Rice said. “I think the independent commission would have been a good, fair, bipartisan way to do it, and as it’s evolved it’s become a partisan circus.”
Asked if he would have been willing to serve on the new committee Democrats created instead, Rice said, “Hell no,” criticizing Pelosi for vetoing McCarthy’s picks.
“I think she’s taken away credibility that the committee had,” he said.
Rice’s impeachment vote has spurred backlash from Trump supporters in his district, leading to as many as a dozen opponents announcing their plans to challenge him in the 2022 GOP primary. He has responded that he believes his oath to the Constitution is more important than loyalty to any one politician.
Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.
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