Former President George W. Bush said he was “disturbed” and “disgusted” by the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol in an interview streamed online Thursday.
“I was sick to my stomach” to see “hostile forces” storm the Capitol, Mr. Bush said in an interview with The Texas Tribune’s chief executive, Evan Smith. “And it really disturbed me to the point where I did put out a statement, and I’m still disturbed when I think about it.”
Mr. Bush added that the insurrection was not a peaceful expression of grievances. “It undermines rule of law and the ability to express yourself in peaceful ways in the public square,” he said.
Asked if he thought the 2020 presidential election was stolen, Mr. Bush responded, “No.” Former President Donald J. Trump has repeatedly asserted that the election was rigged, even though there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Still, Mr. Bush said he did not believe the Trump administration had put democracy at risk by rejecting the election outcome.
“What’s putting democracy at risk is the capacity to get on the internet to spread” false information, Mr. Bush said. “But checks and balances work.”
Mr. Bush also said that he was optimistic about America’s future and that he had had a “good conversation” with President Biden.
“He’s off to a good start, it looks like,” Mr. Bush said. “Hopefully, this anger will work its way out of the system.”
He also said he was pleased to see high voter turnout in the 2018 and 2020 elections, which he said “shows the vibrancy of democracy.”
Mr. Bush was speaking at this year’s SXSW online festival in a pretaped interview recorded on Feb. 24 to promote his new book, “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants.”
Mr. Bush previously called the insurrection, which left five people dead, “sickening” and “heartbreaking” in a Jan. 6 statement.
“I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions and our law enforcement,” he said, then adding, “The violent assault on the Capitol — and disruption of a constitutionally mandated meeting of Congress — was undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes.”
In early November, Mr. Bush was one of the first prominent Republicans to congratulate Mr. Biden on his election win, even as Mr. Trump and many of his supporters defied the results and Republican leaders refused to publicly acknowledge Mr. Biden’s victory.
Mr. Bush attended Mr. Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, alongside former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.