Tucker Carlson’s recutting and selectively showing bits of the thousands of hours of January 6th footage he obtained from Speaker Kevin McCarthy is already proving to be what we expected it to be: dangerous lies.
Although Carlson’s segments feature video of people walking around the Capitol peacefully on January 6th, he also shows clips of violence, including a mob breaking a window to gain access. That alone reveals his lies: there was extensive violence on January 6th. Claiming that only a small number of people were violent—”hooligans” in Carlson’s framing—and the rest were peaceful is stunningly dishonest. January 6th was an unprecedented attack on our democracy that delayed the peaceful transfer of power, and we have all seen the videos of the hundreds of people who committed violence that day—fighting the Capitol Police, smashing windows, breaking through doors, and causing enormous amounts of damage.
Video of people walking through the rotunda peacefully tells us nothing about what they were doing minutes earlier. If you get arrested for a hit and run accident, you don’t complain to the judge that the prosecutor isn’t talking about all the safe driving you did before and after you hit another car. Some of those same people Carlson showed ambling around could have also been part of the mob that crushed Officer Daniel Hodges and others with their own shields, or broke windows to gain access, or used barriers as weapons against law enforcement.
Just watch these videos, which were used as evidence in the case CREW brought in New Mexico under the 14th Amendment’s Disqualification Clause that removed former Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin from office:
Some of those people may have “peacefully walked” around the Capitol later, but that doesn’t erase this brutal violence.
Every single protestor who was inside the Capitol on January 6th was behind police lines. Every single one of them contributed to police being overwhelmed, and helped delay the certification of the election. That’s what courts have ruled, that’s what the DOJ has asserted, that’s what we can see with our own eyes.
One person whose “peaceful walking” Carlson called specific attention to was “Q-Anon shaman” Jacob Chansley. What Carlson fails to mention is that Chansley pled guilty to obstructing an official proceeding. He was one of the first thirty people to enter the Capitol building, climbing through a broken door to gain access. Chansley also refused to follow police orders, called Mike Pence “a fucking traitor” and left a threatening note on Pence’s desk in the Senate. To say that he just “peacefully walked” around the Capitol ignores the fact that he was there as part of an insurrectionary mob seeking to disrupt democracy.
Carlson also refers to many of the people in the footage as not insurrectionists but “sightseers.” Sightseers in DC tend to visit monuments and museums and take selfies in front of the cherry blossoms. But while these “sightseers” were in the Capitol, members of Congress sheltered in secure locations, staffers locked themselves in offices and Capitol Police and other law enforcement officers were overrun. Normal tourist visits don’t result in millions of dollars worth of damage. Normal tourist visits don’t lead to grave injuries and multiple deaths. Normal tourist visits don’t involve chants of “hang Mike Pence.”
Carlson’s claim that the January 6th Select Committee didn’t show video of people walking through the Capitol peacefully in order to mislead the public is absurd on its face. It’s obvious that an hours-long occupation of the Capitol by an insurrectionist mob would involve some moments without violence or chaos. If someone commits an act of violence but ten minutes later holds the door politely, does a video of that polite act negate their violence?
Of course it doesn’t. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy himself previously said that rioters “overtook” the Capitol and that anyone who participated should be punished—views that are undermined by his sharing of footage with Tucker Carlson for what was transparently an attempt to politicize and distort what really happened that day.
Tucker Carlson’s outrageous lies have already been condemned by many members of Congress—Republicans and Democrats alike—but his prominence on Fox News, and the fact that he will likely continue to use this footage misleadingly, is incredibly dangerous.
On Tuesday night, Carlson interviewed a former Capitol police officer who claimed that the Capitol Police were unprepared for January 6th. That’s hardly a bombshell claim: as CREW itself has extensively reported, multiple federal law enforcement agencies failed to heed serious warnings of violence ahead of January 6th. The Capitol Police were overwhelmed and overrun by a violent mob, incited by then-President Trump, in an unprecedented attack on the Capitol that prevented the peaceful transfer of power for the first time in American history. That fact is not in dispute, and Carlson seems to imply that there is some nefarious reason that the Capitol police were overrun. That is a remarkable shifting of blame—with no evidence—from where it correctly lies: with Trump, his allies and the insurrectionists who responded to his call.
Kevin McCarthy should immediately release the footage he shared with Carlson to the public. And all of us should push back against Carlson’s distortions and downplaying of the insurrection. Carlson’s portrayal of the attack on the Capitol is dishonest, and it is setting the stage for Trump and other orchestrators of January 6th to escape accountability—and potentially to incite similar violent attacks on democracy in the future. After all, if January 6th was just a bunch of sightseers, and it was the fault of the Capitol police for being unprepared, then should anyone really face charges for seditious conspiracy? That’s the dangerous path Carlson’s claims lead toward, and it’s one we cannot allow to gain additional currency.
Because this is what really happened on January 6th: