UPDATED, with additional details and reaction: Tucker Carlson aired the first clips of January 6th Capitol surveillance footage on Monday, and the Fox News host spent much of the time using clips to downplay the attack on the Capitol and cast doubt on the 2020 presidential election.
Carlson had heavily promoted the footage, suggesting that it would refute findings from the January 6th Committee and even prove that its members were lying. But much of the hour was Carlson, with ample doses of hype, trying to revise the history of the violence and chaos of that day.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had provided Carlson with exclusive access to about 40,000 hours of surveillance footage from the Capitol, to the dismay of committee members wary of the Fox host’s pushing of conspiracy theories surrounding the attack.
Carlson showed footage of protesters wandering through the halls of the Capitol to claim that “the video record” actually “demolishes” the idea that “January 6th was an insurrection.”
While he said that there were “hooligans” who created havoc, the “overwhelming majority” were not violent.
“These were not insurrectionists. They were sightseers. Footage from inside the Capitol overturns the story you have heard about January 6,” Carlson said.
But Carlson did not mention the widespread injury and destruction to the Capitol that day. Capitol Police reported that 114 officers were injured, and one officer died as the result of a stroke and four died by suicide. TV viewers watching live that day could see for themselves what was happening, with the scenes of the mob trying to break through the doors of the House, or of images of a gallows and noose set up on Capitol grounds. One video, shown during the January 6th Committee hearings, showed that those in the mob shouted, “Hang Mike Pence!” More than 1,000 people have been charged with crimes related to the attack, and more than 350 have received sentences.
Carlson kicked off his show by justifying the mob’s presence at the Capitol that day.
“The protesters were angry,” Carlson told viewers. “They believed that the election they had just voted in had been unfairly conducted. They were right. In retrospect, it is clear the 2020 election was a grave betrayal of American democracy. Given the facts that have emerged since that election, no honest person can deny it.”
Carlson’s continued efforts to cast doubt on the election come as Fox News faces a $1.6 billion dollar defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems, as hosts and guests amplified claims that the company rigged results in favor of Joe Biden. The company’s recent court filings have included text messages and emails from Fox hosts and executives expressing their doubts and disbelief over Donald Trump’s claims that the election was fraudulent, as well as their worries of a backlash among the then-president’s supporters. In a post-election text, Carlson himself wrote to his producer that what Trump is “good at is destroying things. He’s the undisputed champion of that. He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.”
Carlson also showed footage of Jacob Chansley, the so-called “QAnon shaman,” being escorted through corridors of the Capitol along with Capitol Police officers. “Not one of them tried to slow him down,” Carlson said. But according to Politico, that footage was available to Chansley in his case, but he ended up pleading guilty to obstruction of a federal proceeding, a felony, in a deal with prosecutors. He was sentenced to 41 months in prison. Police officers also testified that they were concerned with escalating the situation, given the number of rioters, and that Chansley was asked to leave but refused to do so, according to CNN.
And he showed footage that he said was of Officer Brian Sicknick, who died the day after the Capitol riot. The New York Times initially reported that Sicknick had been struck by a fire extinguisher as he battled with rioters, but later updated its coverage based on the District of Columbia medical examiner’s findings that he died of natural causes.
Carlson, though, made it sound as if the media was still trying to claim that Sicknick died by blunt force trauma. He showed footage he said was of Sicknick taken after he engaged with the mob outside the Capitol. “By all appearances, Sicknick is healthy and vigorous,” Carlson said, adding that “whatever happened to Brian Sicknick was very obviously not the result of violence he suffered at the entrance at the Capitol.”
Sicknick suffered two strokes after he was sprayed with a chemical, based on the findings of the District of Columbia medical examiner, according to FactCheck.org. But the medical examiner said that “all that transpired played a role in his condition.”
The family of Sicknick issued a statement on Monday night, responding to Carlson’s show and the host’s statement that the late officer’s death was unrelated to the Capitol riot. “The Sicknick family is outraged at the ongoing attack on our family by the unscrupulous and outright sleazy so called news network of Fox News who will do the bidding of Trump or any of his sycophant followers, no matter what damage is done to the families of the fallen, the officers who put their lives on the line, and all who suffered on Jan. 6 due to the lies started by Trump and spread by sleaze slinging outlets like Fox,” the family said, per CNN. They said that the video showed that Sicknick “managed to shake off the chemical irritants and resume his duties.”
“That he did, but his sense of duty and incredible work ethic were the driving force which sent him back in spite of his injuries and no doubt contributed to his succumbing to his injuries the following day,” the family said.
Carlson also turned to a clip that went viral from the January 6th hearings, that of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who had raised his fist in support of the Capitol protesters, scurrying away from the chamber as the mob approached. The Fox host tried to claim that the clip was “edited deceptively” by the January 6th Committee because there is also footage of other lawmakers racing to get out. But the committee never claimed that Hawley was the only lawmaker who fled the chamber. Adam Kinzinger, one of the committee members, responded, “Yep. Lots of people were running that day. Because of, you know, the violence things. Including Josh Hawley.”
Carlson was responsible for the Fox Nation documentary Patriot Purge, which advanced the claim that the attack on the Capitol was a “false flag” operation. Fox’s decision to show the documentary series led to the resignation of two longtime contributors, Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes.
McCarthy provided Carlson with the footage, to the outrage of Senate and House Democratic leaders, while major media outlets demanded their own ability to screen the footage.
Carlson, though, spun it another way. He has tried to claim that opposition to McCarthy’s move was an effort to suppress the footage — “The Democratic party and their allies in the media prevented you from seeing it.” But much of the upset over McCarthy’s move is over his decision to give the Fox host exclusive access to the material.
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