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Healthcare Leaders React to Rioters on Capitol Hill

Analysis  |  By Jack O'Brien  
   January 06, 2021

HHS Secretary Alex Azar said he was "disgusted by the attack" on the Capitol.

Healthcare leaders responded to the rioting that took place at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Wednesday afternoon.

The uprising, which began shortly after Congress began the certification process for the 2020 presidential election won by President-elect Joe Biden, resulted in a breach of the U.S. Capitol Building, the arrests of more than a dozen people, and the death of one woman.

Leaders from all across the political spectrum weighed in on the events as they unfolded, as did healthcare executives and notable stakeholders.

Related: Healthcare Groups Applaud Biden on Winning Presidency

HHS Secretary Alex Azar issued a statement on Twitter hours after rioters entered the building, saying he was "disgusted by the attack" on the Capitol.

"I am disgusted by the attack on the Capitol we witnessed today. Physical violence and the desecration of this hallowed symbol of our democracy must end. People must immediately and peacefully disperse," he said. "The DC Mayor has imposed a curfew starting at 6PM this evening. Please adhere to the guidance provided to staff through Human Resources and follow appropriate guidance in the morning. Most importantly, I want all of you to stay safe. Please take care of yourselves & loved ones."

Ballad Health CEO Alan Levine, who previously served as Secretary of Health in both Louisiana and Florida, tweeted "Are you serious?   This isn’t my Party," in response to one of President Donald Trump's tweets during the riots.

Levine added in another tweet: "Our nation has survived civil war, countless economic crises, and existential military threats.  We will, of course, put down this insurrection, install a new president and then we will beat this pandemic.  And Donald Trump’s legacy will be today, because he did this."

Related: Ballad Health Faces Deteriorating Payer Mix and Continuing Financial Obstacles Related to COVID-19

Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said in a statement that he was "devastated" by the events in Washington.

"As an American, as a colleague to tens of thousands of Johnson & Johnson employees in the country, and as a U.S. military veteran who has served overseas to protect our democracy, I'm devastated by this assault on what our country has stood for since its founding: free, fair and peaceful elections," he said. "Now it is time to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in unity - not face-to-face in conflict, and chart our path to a better and healthier future."

Atul Gawande, former CEO of Haven and member of the Biden COVID response team, tweeted that he was "in shock."

Gawande added in another tweet: "These images of attack on our democracy— invited by GOP members of the Senate and House — is the definition of sedition and must be repelled."

Stephen J. Ubl, CEO of PhRMA, tweeted about the need for a "peaceful transfer of power."

"The events unfolding in our nation’s capital are appalling and violate the better values of our nation. It’s time for the peaceful transition of power our Constitution requires and the mob standing in the way must be condemned."

Ubl continued: "The American people have spoken, and now more than ever we must stand together."

Andy Slavitt, MBA, who served as acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) in the Obama administration, tweeted about Wednesday's events and the Georgia Senate runoff elections on Tuesday night.

"Just when you think you’ve got this country figured out, Georgia elects a Black and a Jewish Senator and terrorists supported by the president attack the US Capitol. Within 24 hours."

Related: Andy Slavitt on the Upcoming Election and Ongoing Pandemic

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla sent a letter to the pharmaceutical company's employees on what he called "deeply disturbing" actions in Washington, D.C.

"Now it is time to come together, find ways to understand our differences and solve the problems we face constructively. Whether we are Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, we all have a role to play in making this democracy work. We look forward to better days."

J. Mario Molina, MD, former CEO of Molina Healthcare and founder of, tweeted about what he termed an "insurrection."

"The last time the Capitol was breached like this was 1814 when the British set fire to the building. This is not dissent, this in insurrection."

On Thursday afternoon, the American College of Physicians (ACP) issued a statement condemning the "efforts to disrupt basic democratic processes in our nation’s capital."

"ACP continues to call for a peaceful, timely transfer of power, including full cooperation during the transition, to ensure stability and protect public health," the statement read. "As a country, we are facing an enormous threat to the health of all of our patients from the COVID-19 pandemic. Disruptions to our government have serious consequences for the stability of the health care system that U.S. residents rely on for care. Public trust in our government and institutions, and effective leadership at all levels of government, are essential to an effective public health response to the pandemic, including distribution and public acceptance of vaccines. Yesterday’s events threaten to further undermine both."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include commentary from the American College of Physicians.

Jack O'Brien is the Content Team Lead and Finance Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

Photo credit: “Washington, DC - January, 6 2021: Trump supporters rioting at the US Capitol.” / Editorial credit: Sebastian Portillo /

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