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Missouri Residents Reflect On Senator Josh Hawley's Actions During The Capitol Riot

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri memorably held up a raised fist in support of insurrectionists shortly before they attacked democracy at the Capitol on January 6. Shortly afterward, Senator Hawley objected to the Electoral College results in the presidential election, promoting the same falsehood of election fraud that had provoked the riot. Hawley's moves dismayed some of his closest supporters. So what does his hometown think? Frank Morris of member station KCUR visited Lexington, Mo.

FRANK MORRIS, BYLINE: Josh Hawley sets himself up as an antidote to cosmopolitan elites who he says are ruining America. Hawley draws his rural credibility from growing up in Lexington, an old Missouri River town of about 4,500 people. Hawley's family moved to Lexington in the early '80s when Josh was a toddler.

JIM KENNEY: His mother and father were salt of the Earth, widely respected, beloved.

MORRIS: Jim Kenney is a fifth-generation Lexington resident. He says young Hawley stood out.

KENNEY: I can remember my kids coming home one time and saying, Josh Hawley told us all he's going to be president someday. And that was probably - he was in the sixth - fifth or sixth grade at the time. So people remember that around here.

MORRIS: Another thing people remember - when Hawley finished eighth grade, his parents sent him off to a Catholic school an hour away in Kansas City. For many in Lexington, that was the last they saw of Josh Hawley. He went on to Stanford and Yale and eventually came back to town to launch his political career.

KENNEY: He's very smart politically and is going to use that to his advantage.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Josh Hawley...

JOSH HAWLEY: The eyes of the nation are on Missouri.

MORRIS: In this campaign ad for his 2018 Senate race, Hawley is strolling by the picturesque old courthouse downtown. It's beautiful imagery, but it did not sit well with everyone here. Tim and Allyson Crosson, music teachers who worked with Hawley, say the ad was disingenuous.

TIM CROSSON: He tries to portray himself as a good old boy from rural Missouri and my constituents are all these rural people. And they don't buy into it at all.

ALLYSON CROSSON: I think that the community is hurt and betrayed by him.

MORRIS: Lexington's librarian, Willa Beach, says she's angry and embarrassed that Hawley put his education to use promoting conspiratorial fictions, in her view, stoking rage and leading to the Capitol riot.

WILLA BEACH: It was such an ugly thing. It was such an ugly thing, and I think it really revealed his true character.

MORRIS: In Beach's opinion, Hawley showed himself to be a brash opportunist, someone lacking the humility to actually get along in a small town.

(CROSSTALK)

MORRIS: But lots of people here love Josh Hawley. He took 63% percent of the vote in this county in 2018.

JIM MARTIN: I have no problems with Josh. I think he's a good Christian man, and I think he stands up for his principles.

MORRIS: Jim Martin is at the Spotted Pig restaurant for the weekly meeting of the Lexington Rotary Club.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: And Pledge of Allegiance.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

MORRIS: Ken Jobe, a mechanic and tow truck operator, is the club's president.

KEN JOBE: Josh was in our Sunday school class in Sunday school. I was one of the - working with the youth at the time. He was with our kids - great kid. I was real proud of when he stepped up to the plate to go into politics. And I'm proud of him. He's taking his stand now.

MORRIS: A stand on the election. Despite the lack of evidence, Jobe still believes it was stolen from Trump. So where some see brash opportunism, Jobe sees true courage.

JOBE: Well, I thought he did everything he could. And the fact that he did, he stuck his neck out there, I mean, politically, unfortunately, it's probably destroyed his career as a politician.

MORRIS: Hawley did take a hit. His political mentor in Missouri abandoned him, as did some of his earliest donors. But here in Lexington, some are still waiting for what Hawley does next to see what he can accomplish for them and for the country as a whole. For NPR News, I'm Frank Morris in Lexington, Mo.

(SOUNDBITE OF AIGUILLE'S "DAY AND NIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.