Chase apologizes to Va. Senate ‘if I offended any one of you’; censure still in play
Democratic resolution sponsor says Chase's words "fell far short" of apology
Updated Jan. 24
In a bid to avoid becoming the first state senator censured since 1986, state Sen. Amanda Chase on Friday apologized to her Senate colleagues, saying she was sorry “if I offended any one of you.”
Her words were not enough to avoid censure, the chief patron of the censure resolution said in an interview with Virginia Business on Friday afternoon, confirming he would not withdraw the measure. It’s likely to come up for a vote by the full Senate on Wednesday.
The Washington Post reported Thursday night that Chase, R-Chesterfield County, and Sen. John J. Bell, D-Loudoun, chief patron of the censure resolution, had struck a deal that if she apologized and “clarified” her remarks about participants in the violent siege of the U.S. Capitol, he would withdraw his resolution to censure her for “fomenting insurrection against the United States.”
In her speech on the floor of the Senate on Friday, Chase continued to defend her participation in a Jan. 6 pro-Trump rally at the National Mall that led to a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Chase posted on Facebook on Jan. 6 that pro-Trump rioter and Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt “was brutally murdered by Capitol Police today. . . . These were not rioters and looters; these were Patriots who love their country and do not want to see our great republic turn into a socialist country.”
Bell said he sponsored the measure because, as a retired military officer, “this was something that really hurt me to my core” and that he considers Chase’s words and actions as “aiding and comforting the enemy.” He spoke three times with Chase about the resolution — including once in person Thursday at the Science Museum of Virginia, where the Senate is convened, and on the phone Thursday night. He made it clear that if she gave an “unconditional” apology and condemned the people who committed violence and those who wore anti-Semitic and other offensive garments, he would strike the resolution to censure her.
“I believe in second chances,” Bell said, and he said that Chase had taken notes when they met in person and agreed to Bell’s terms. Thursday night, he contacted her because he had received an interview request from a journalist for comment on the situation and wanted to let her know that he had not talked to the press about their agreement. “It’s a disappointment,” Bell said, and added that he was “a bit surprised about how disjointed her comments became.”
Chase spoke about nine minutes Friday, addressing numerous topics, from the 2020 election to calling out a member of the media by name.
“I have not come in here storming the Senate of Virginia in any type of insurrection-type behavior,” said Chase, who is seeking the GOP’s 2021 gubernatorial nomination. “If I have offended any one of you in this room because I am very passionate about the Constitution, I apologize.”
She added that she had “openly condemned the actions of those at the Capitol,” but continued to say that her part in the day’s events involved no violence and that the people surrounding her in Washington, D.C., were “people I call patriots. These people love their country, just like I do.”
She said her goal of participating in President Donald Trump’s Jan. 6 “Save America” rally was to “protect” the legitimacy of the presidential vote, which she has repeatedly claimed without evidence was “stolen” from Trump through voter fraud.
Chase also criticized a journalist from Roanoke public radio station WVTF, Michael Pope, whom she said misattributed a quote to her, in which she used the word “patriots” with regard to participants in the demonstration in a Facebook post. Chase said she never called the people involved in the breach “patriots,” only the ones who did not take part in violence. “We have to hold the media accountable. There are some reporters giving all of our reporters a bad name.”
However, fellow Republican Sen. David Suetterlein of Roanoke County defended Pope and said that Chase had used the word “patriots” to describe pro-Trump demonstrators in the Facebook post, which has now been removed, along with her official Senate Facebook page. “I think it’s unfair to malign the member of the press who simply quoted it,” Suetterlein said.
Chase also reversed herself Friday on comments about Democrats’ participation in Black Lives Matter protests last summer, saying, “Going forward, if you decide to participate in a rally or a protest and something happens, as it happened to the senator from Portsmouth, I didn’t file a censure for you, and I’d ask that you do the same for me.”
Chase promised last week to “start calling people out in this room,” indicating on social media that she would propose censure resolutions against any Democratic senators who participated in social justice protests last summer that led to property damage. Last week Chase also said she was planning to file a resolution to censure Sen. L. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, for taking part in a social justice demonstration in June 2020 during which a Confederate statue was taken down by protesters. On Twitter Wednesday, Chase said that the filing was “mysteriously being held up in the Senate Clerk’s office” and shared a resolution document calling for Lucas’ censure “for encouraging protesters to break the law and asking police to stand down while rioters broke the law and destroyed public property. … Senator L. Louise Lucas has clearly abused her position as a state senator.”
The resolution had not been assigned a number or appeared in the state’s Legislative Information System as of Friday, and Chase may already have reached her legislation limit, set before the 30-day session.
By Friday night, Chase had changed her conciliatory stance, tweeting: “If Virginia Senate Democrats censure me, I’ll wear it like a badge of honor and raise lots of money statewide to defeat Terry [McAuliffe]. To me; it’s a win win.” On Saturday, she tweeted, “Virginia Senate Democrats really didn’t want an apology; they wanted complete submission. And that’s not going to happen; not today; not tomorrow; not ever.” She also continued criticizing Lucas.
With multiple Democrats as co-sponsors, the censure resolution was passed on a party line vote Tuesday by the Democratic-controlled Privileges and Elections committee, moving it to a future vote on the Senate floor. If passed, it would be the first censure of a state senator since 1986.
In response to Chase’s participation at the rally came calls for her resignation by Virginia Senate Democrats and the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus voiced its support for the censure of Chase in a statement this week.
Bell said he considered filing a resolution to expel Chase from the Senate, the most serious penalty the body can enact, but he didn’t believe he had the two-thirds majority vote necessary to remove her from the seat in the Senate, which is divided 21-18 in favor of Democrats and has one vacancy due to the Jan. 1 death of Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Russell County. But also, Bell said Friday he believes “things should be done in steps,” and that’s what the party has done, starting with its call for Chase’s resignation on Jan. 6.
At this point of the session, Bell or any other member of the Senate would have to get unanimous consent to file a resolution past deadline, or two-thirds consent to change the rules — neither of which is likely in this case.
Chase also was stripped Tuesday of her final committee assignment on the low-profile Local Government committee, and was on the receiving end of criticism from her Republican colleagues.
Sen. Mark J. Peake, R-Lynchburg, said earlier in the week that “in pursuit of her personal goals,” Chase likes to say, “Look at me, I fight the good old boys.” Although Chase said she was being punished for not paying Republican Senate caucus dues, others said that was false, as dues are optional and do not affect committee assignments. In 2019, Chase left the caucus when it re-elected Sen. Thomas Norment, R-James City County, as its leader — and that was why she lost seniority privileges and assignments, Suetterlein said earlier this week.
Chase’s statement Friday caps a period in which the senior Chesterfield County senator has often antagonized Democrats and Republicans by embracing and echoing Trump’s combative stances, including a refusal to wear a face mask when the state Senate meets and pushing the false narrative that Trump was the legitimate winner of the 2020 election.