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SALT LAKE CITY — Several Utah politicians, including Sen. Mike Lee, took to social media to condemn videos of apparent supporters of President Donald Trump heckling Sen. Mitt Romney before and during his flight to Washington, D.C. ahead of Wednesday's presidential election certification.
Romney has been one of most vocal political leaders against a plan by several of his Republican colleagues, including Utah Reps. Burgess Owens and Chris Stewart, to challenge presidential election results in order for an emergency audit of the election to be conducted by Congress. Romney is also one of the Republican senators who said they plan to move ahead and certify President-elect Joe Biden's victory.
Trump has asserted widespread voter fraud in swing states; state and federal election officials have repeatedly said there is no evidence to support those claims and multiple courts have also rejected lawsuits brought by Trump supporters advancing those claims.
Wednesday's vote brought thousands of Trump supporters to Washington to protest the certification, which is the final process in the election. Trump, jabbed Romney during the rally at the nation's capital, the Deseret News reported.
"I wonder if he enjoyed his flight in last night," Trump said.
The first video, posted by Twitter user @Utah_17 Tuesday evening, shows Romney sitting down waiting for a flight at Salt Lake International Airport. A woman, who doesn't appear on screen, walks up to the senator, who immediately tells her to put on a mask.
Utah Patriots catch Rino Romney at Salt Lake City international airport! He thinks he's above his constituents!!! Openly bashing @realDonaldTrump!!!— Qtah (@Utah_17) January 6, 2021
"These people won't be able to walk down the street."
VOLUME UP! ☝🏼 pic.twitter.com/Lntgozkajx
The woman immediately asks "why aren't you supporting President Trump?" Romney responds that he "does agree with many of the things he is for and I support those things."
When asked if he would support Trump in his "election fraud" fight, Romney said he wouldn't.
"It's a long story, but we have a Constitution and the Constitution process is clear. I'll follow the Constitution, and I'll explain that when we meet as Congress this week," Romney responded in the video.
He added that he did not support Trump in the election, when asked about that as well.
"You were voted in as a conservative to represent the conservative constituents. Period," the woman replied back to the senator, who responded "that's not how the Constitution works" and "I work for the people of Utah."
Near the end of the video, Romney stands up and walks away as the woman and a man follow him.
"You're a joke," the woman said in the video as he walked away from her.
Another video, posted by Twitter user @AncPerl, shows several passengers on a plane chanting "traitor" reportedly toward Romney before berating him with similar questions he was asked while at Salt Lake International Airport. Both videos quickly received millions of views.
Mitt Romney, in a flight full of patriots in their way to DC pic.twitter.com/t9uq3vkCo5— Non timebo mala (@AncPerl) January 5, 2021
After the videos went viral, many online users likened them to the growing number of incidents involving political leaders protested in areas outside of their jobs. For example, protesters recently vandalized the homes of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, over how Congress handled the COVID-19 economic response.
In Utah, protests happened last year outside of then-Gov. Gary Herbert's private residence in Utah County, as well as Dr. Angela Dunn, the state's epidemiologist, over COVID-19 guidelines.
Lee, in a tweet Wednesday morning, was one of the Utah political leaders to weigh in on the videos of people heckling Romney as he traveled back to Washington.
"No matter our political differences let's all treat each other with respect and decency," Lee tweeted Wednesday morning. "Harassing your political opponents on a plane is not acceptable. Harassing your political opponents at their home is not acceptable. We as a country need to be better than this."
No matter our political differences let's all treat each other with respect and decency. Harassing your political opponents on a plane is not acceptable. Harassing your political opponents at their home is not acceptable. We as a country need to be better than this.— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) January 6, 2021
Others, like 2016 independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin and Utah County Commissioner Tanner Ainge, also rushed online to condemn the incidents.
I, for one, am a Romney constituent and I deeply appreciate his principled and selfless commitment to the Constitution and the freedom of even people who treat him like this. If every member of Congress were as honorable as Mitt, imagine how much better off the nation would be. https://t.co/sLnLYXevIj— Evan McMullin 🇺🇸 (@EvanMcMullin) January 6, 2021
Just one of the most successful business leaders of his time, former Gov and GOP nominee quietly reading at the airport in the course of his public duties—being harassed by "patriots" 🙄@MittRomney deserves more respect than this—yet responds w/ decency & patience 💪🏼 https://t.co/ijBTIsuafIpic.twitter.com/0oGBi2QFOf— Tanner Ainge (@TannerAinge) January 6, 2021
"Just one of the most successful business leaders of his time, former Gov and GOP nominee quietly reading at the airport in the course of his public duties — being harassed by 'patriots,'" Ainge wrote, adding in an eye-roll emoji.
Romney, Lee and Rep. John Curtis are among Utah members of Congress who are expected to move forward with certifying Biden's election win.
"Were Congress to actually reject state electors, partisans would inevitably demand the same any time their candidate had lost," Romney wrote, in a statement against the plan over the weekend. "Congress, not voters in the respective states, would choose our presidents."
Curtis tweeted a photo of him at his desk phone in Washington Tuesday and urged anyone who wanted to know more about his decision to call.
Many political experts said that Wednesday's proceedings likely won't change any results from the 2020 election even with the objections that will be presented during the day.