As the country continues to grapple with Wednesday's events on Capitol Hill, Jenna Bush Hager couldn't hold back her emotions as she discussed the Capitol riots during Thursday's episode of the Today show. The riots broke out Wednesday afternoon amid the certification of electoral college votes and marked a historical moment when the Capitol building was breached for the first time since the War of 1812, causing damage to the building, lawmakers to seek shelter, and the deaths of four people.
Speaking Thursday just hours after Congress affirmed President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Donald Trump 306 to 232, Hager declared the scene that unfolded "not our America." She said, "This is not the America that you know. This is not the America I know." The mom of two added, "It's not the America that we want our kids to know." Admitting that the events the following day were "hard," Hager, whose father and grandfather both served as presidents, grew emotional as she reflected on her own connection to the Capitol.
“I have felt the majesty of our country in those walls. And nobody can take that from any of us.” @JennaBushHager reflects a day after the riots on Capitol Hill, recalling her own personal connections to the home of Congress. pic.twitter.com/nHYpj8P18R— TODAY with Hoda & Jenna (@HodaAndJenna) January 7, 2021
"And I have had the privilege of standing on those steps, and several inaugurations, not just for family members, but for the first Black President of the United States of America when I was a teacher in inner-city D.C., and that meant so much to so many. I kissed my grandfather goodbye in that rotunda. I have felt the majesty of our country in those walls," Hager said. "And nobody can take that from any of us."
Reflecting on the pain the riots caused so many, Hager said she thinks part of what hurts "is that we feel like we're helpless maybe in this moment." Despite this, the Today co-host said "we're not [helpless] because the casual cruelty that we find on the internet and in the words of leaders that do not reflect our country – we can stop that." She went on to spread a message of positivity amid the divide in the nation.
"We can share kindness and smiles and love, and we can take back what is our country that we all love so very, very much. And I, you know, I just have optimism," she said in part. "But seeing people that represent the good, spotlighting them, we have an opportunity, and I think I have faith that our country will be better."
The Wednesday riots played out over the course of several hours, during which two pipe bombs were recovered near the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee as well as a cooler from a vehicle that had a long gun and Molotov cocktail on Capitol grounds. A total of 52 people were arrested, and four people – including one woman who was shot by Capitol Police and three people who suffered "separate medical emergencies" – died. Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a curfew that began at 6 p.m. ET. and also extended an emergency declaration through Jan. 21.