Fierce backlash has forced the No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representatives to walk back comments he made appearing cast doubt on the legitimacy of the upcoming 2022 midterm elections in November.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), recently told Politico that he agreed with President Joe Biden's claim that the fairness of the next election depends on whether the Democrats are able to pass federal legislation to undo Republican-backed election security reforms in several states.
"I think it easily could be — be illegitimate," Biden told reporters at a rare press conference last week.
""I'm not going to say it's going to be legit. It's — the increase and the prospect of being illegitimate is in direct proportion to us not being able to get these — these reforms passed," Biden said.
Asked about the president's claims, Hoyer said, "President Biden is correct" that the election will not be legitimate without passage of the Freedom to Vote Act and other election reforms supported by Democrats.
"This is about our Democracy. This is about an America that really believes in making sure that the people’s voice is heard and reflected in the outcome of the election," Hoyer said.
But the Democratic leader faced a flurry of online criticism after Politico reported that Hoyer "appeared to agree with President JOE BIDEN’s suggestion last week that the 2022 election results may not be valid without the passage of voting rights legislation."
Hoyer's office gave a statement to Fox News to clean up the mess. Hoyer communications director Margaret Mulkerrin said that Hoyer does not believe the midterm elections will be illegitimate.
"Leader Hoyer shares President Biden’s concern that Republican attempts to methodically exclude millions of voters are deeply alarming, and raise serious questions that people who want to make their voice heard won’t be able to participate," Mulkerrin said.
"Leader Hoyer does not believe the 2022 election will be illegitimate, nor would he claim ballots ought to be thrown out if a Democrat loses – simply that millions of Americans have been systematically disenfranchised from our democracy by GOP election suppression legislation, and that we ought to take immediate steps to stop it by passing urgently needed measures to protect the right to vote."
Various Democrats have claimed that "democracy" is at risk should Congress fail to pass election reforms this year. The Freedom to Vote Act would set federal standards for U.S. elections, expand mail-in and absentee voting, loosen voter ID laws, and make Election Day a federal holiday, among other reforms.