You know what happened on January 6, 2021. You probably watched it on television that day, when Donald Trump agitated a mob of angry, armed supporters to storm the Capitol. They battled officers, busted through windows, and roved through the halls of Congress, some of them chanting the names of Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence. You saw terrified lawmakers, some of whom had helped fan the flames of the insurrection and would later side with it, seeking cover. You knew what happened that day, even before the January 6 committee expanded the nation’s understanding of it, because you saw it with your own eyes.
But on Monday night, Tucker Carlson kicked off his latest and most egregious effort yet to get Americans to doubt what they saw. The Fox News host—whose primetime program boasts a viewership of 3.5 million—aired a series of selective, edited clips of footage from the Capitol that day that he exclusively obtained from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and claimed that the narrative around January 6 has been a lie. “These were not insurrectionists,” Carlson said over images of Trump supporters wandering through the Capitol taking selfies. “They were sightseers.” Jacob Chansley—the so-called QAnon Shaman who entered the Senate chamber and left a threatening note on Pence’s dais—was something more like a tourist. And Josh Hawley—who raised his fist in solidarity with the mob the day before running away from them after they breached the building—was not a coward: He was merely “one of many lawmakers being ushered out of the building” by Capitol police.
Taken together, he said, the footage “overturns the story you’ve heard” from the January 6 select committee about that day. Those who entered weren’t trying to overthrow the system; they were simply “angry” because the 2020 election had been “unfairly conducted.”
It was a toweringly dishonest piece of programming, a shameless exercise in propaganda meant not only to give cover to Trump and other Republicans who fomented the attack on democracy, but to himself and the other Fox News hosts who propagated the former president’s 2020 election lies, even as they clearly knew it was all bullshit. That last part is what makes this especially galling. Fox knows it’s bullshit. Carlson knows it’s bullshit. McCarthy—who pressed Trump to put a stop to the violence before crawling back to Mar-a-Lago seeking the former president’s support—knows it’s bullshit. And yet, unsurprisingly, they are pushing ahead with it. Republicans and the right-wing media have spent more than two years now trying to downplay the insurrection and erase their responsibility for it. This is simply the culmination of that effort. [Continue reading…]