Fox News personality Tucker Carlson aired surveillance footage from the attack on the US Capitol that was exclusively provided to him from a top congressional Republican to falsely depict the riots on 6 January, 2021 as a peaceful gathering.
He downplayed an attempt to disrupt an election and overturn millions of Americans’ votes, and asserted that other media outlets and Democratic lawmakers lied to the public about the attack, despite real-time video of rioters pushing past police, breaking windows, threatening lawmakers and storming the halls of Congress, with hundreds of criminal prosecutions and charges against at least 1,000 people.
Most of the rioters were “sightseers,” not “insurrectionists,” Carlson said in a segment on 6 March that sought to sanitise a riot fuelled by a baseless narrative that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump.
“Taken as a whole, the video record does not video record does not support the claim that January 6 was an insurrection. In fact, it demolishes that claim,” Carlson said.
One of the most-watched cable news network personalities in the US aired the footage – wrapped in egregiously false claims that election was “unfairly conducted” – days after court documents revealed that Carlson and other top Fox News personalities, producers and executives privately rejected the former president’s claims, including bogus statements about a voting machine company suing the network for defamation.
“The protesters were angry. They believed that the election they had just voted in had been unfairly conducted. And they were right. In retrospect, it is clear that the 2020 election was a grave betrayal of American democracy,” he stated. “No honest person can deny it.”
But in court documents related to Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation case against the network, Carlson is revealed to have privately rejected debunked claims about vote manipulation, while at the same time fearing drops in Fox stock prices and viewership if network hosts and reporters publicly admitted that there is no evidence to support those false claims.
On his programme on 6 March, he said a “small percentage” of rioters were “hooligans” who “committed vandalism,” not mentioning the more than 140 law enforcement officers who were injured, and the dozens of people facing charges for assaulting or resisting police, including more than 100 people who are charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon to do so.
“But the overwhelming majority … were peaceful, ordinary and meek,” he said.” These were not insurrectionists. They were sightseers.”
The US Department of Justice notes that roughly one-third of all defendants are charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding law enforcement, including more than 100 people charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious injury to an officer.
Roughly 140 officers with the US Capitol Police and Washington DC’s Metropolitan Police Department were injured in the attack, and approximately 60 people have pleaded guilty to assaulting law enforcement officers, according to the Justice Department. Two undetonated pipe bombs were also discovered at nearby locations, and a suspect wanted in connection has still not been identified.
Carlson also claimed that “very little of about January 6 was organised or violent,” despite high-profile jury convictions and prosecutions against members of two far-right groups for seditious conspiracy.
Newly selected Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy provided the tapes to Carlson as part of an apparent deal for the California congressman to win the speaker’s gavel, after Calrson announced on his programme to demand that he release “the January 6 files.”
“All of it,” Mr Carlson said in January. “So that the rest of us can finally know what actually happened.”
On his programme on 5 March, Carlson claimed that the House select committee investigating the events leading up to and after the attack “lied about what they saw and then hid the evidence from the public, as well as from January 6 criminal defendants and their lawyers.”
McCarthy, he said, “rectified that crime” by providing tapes to Fox News.
Democratic US Rep Bennie Thompson, the former committee chair, said in a statement after Mr Carlson’s programme that it was a “dereliction of duty for Kevin McCarthy to give Tucker Carlson carte blanche access to sensitive US Capitol security surveillance footage from one of the darkest days in the history of our democracy.”
Republican committee member and now-former US Rep Adam Kinzinger called the broadcast “disgusting.”
“The sad thing is you’re going to have people that have only gotten their news on Fox News that are never going to have the opportunity to hear the truth,” he told CNN. “What Tucker Carlson does – and he’s done this the entire time he’s been as a grifter TV show host because he knows better than this, by the way – he takes a cut scene and creates a straw man.”
In furious remarks on the floor of the US Senate on 7 March, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Mr Carlson of cherry-picking footage for his “bald-faced lies” about the attack.
On his programme, Carlson falsely claimed that there is “dispute” over how Jacob Chansley, a man known as the “QAnon Shaman,” entered the Capitol; video footage shows him entering the building less than a minute after windows and doors were kicked and bashed open to let the mob inside.
In November 2021, Chansley pleaded guilty to a felony count of obstructing an official proceeding before Congress.
Carlson also claimed on his programme that Democratic officials lied about the death of US Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died one day after he was assaulted by rioters, collapsed at his desk when he retired to his office, and suffered a stroke. An autopsy determined that he died of natural causes following two strokes at the base of his brain stem caused by a blood clot.
“They knew he was not murdered by the mob, but they claimed it anyway,” he said.
Two men have been sentenced in connection with his assault after he was sprayed with bear spray; his family contends that the attack contributed to his death.
The Sicknick family is “outraged at the ongoing attack on our family by the unscrupulous and outright sleazy so called ‘news’ network” following Carlson’s programme.
Carlson also claimed that he could not “solve” the “mystery” of the killing of Capitol rioter Ashli Babbitt, who was filmed attempting to climb through a window into the House chambers while joining a mob outside its doors. He claimed there were “no security cameras” nearby when she was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer, though the shooting was captured by rioters and others who were standing near the barricaded entryway.
Olivia Troye, a former aide to former Vice President Mike Pence, said Carlson’s attempts to distort what happened on January 6 “will have long-lasting dangerous repercussions” in the US and “will foment violence.”
“The complicity of those in the GOP supporting this stunt while fully knowing they’re lying is repugnant,” she added.
The Independent has requested comment from Fox News.
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