A Capitol defendant who bought into former President Donald Trump’s lies about a stolen election came down with “Foxitus” and “Foxmania” after watching too much Fox News, his attorney told a court on Thursday.
Anthony Antonio’s attorney told a D.C. magistrate judge that after Antonio was laid off because of the coronavirus pandemic last year, he spent all his time living in a home with four other individuals who watched a lot of Fox News.
“For the next approximate six months, Fox television played constantly,” lawyer Joseph Hurley said. “He became hooked with what I call ‘Foxitus’ or ‘Foxmania’ and became interested in the political aspect and started believing what was being fed to him.”
Another Capitol defendant on the Zoom hearing, Landon Copeland, soon interrupted Hurley and objected to him disparaging the former president. (Copeland continued interrupting the proceeding over the next several hours, and the judge eventually ordered a competency hearing).
Hurley, whom the Wilmington, Delaware-based News Journal described as an attorney “known for his bravado and courtroom theatrics,” said that Antonio believed he was following Trump’s orders to march on Washington and that he was taking part in what he saw as a patriotic movement to serve the United States.
The lawyer also told the judge he’s in no huge rush to move forward with the case because he wanted prosecutors to take care of “bad” Capitol defendants before his client’s case was resolved.
Antonio surrendered to police in Delaware last month. He was charged with five federal crimes linked to his presence at the Jan. 6 riot: knowingly entering or remaining on restricted grounds without lawful authority, violent entry and disorderly conduct, impeding law enforcement during civil disorder, disrupting Congress and damaging government property.
In several videos, he was seen among the mob at the Lower West Terrace Entrance of the Capitol building, which “saw a tremendous amount of violent criminal activity” that day, according to an FBI affidavit.
In one video captured on a police body-worn camera, Antonio shouted at officers, “You want war? We got war. 1776 all over again.”
He wore a black tactical bulletproof vest adorned with a far-right “Three Percenter” patch, a camouflage shirt, and had a tattoo of the words “Carpe Diem” on his right wrist, the affidavit said.
Antonio is accused of climbing the scaffolding outside the Capitol, entering the building through a broken window, obtaining a riot shield and gas mask, threatening police and squirting water at Michael Fanone, the police officer who was dragged down a set of stairs by rioters and repeatedly tased and beaten.
Multiple men have been arrested in connection with that assault, including Thomas Sibick, Kyle Young, Albuquerque C. Head and Daniel Rodriguez, who was charged after a HuffPost investigation identified him as the rioter who electroshocked Fanone.
In an interview with federal authorities in February, Antonio said he locked eyes with Fanone, who begged for help. He said he could see “death in the man’s eyes” and would not be able to get the image of the officer out of his head.
Fox News and the Trump administration had a symbiotic relationship for much of Donald Trump’s presidency, though this grew more dangerous and intense in the lead-up to and aftermath of the 2020 election. The network amplified Trump’s fiction about a rigged election and vice-versa. Trump’s allies were allowed to broadcast their baseless claims largely unchecked during repeated appearances on-air to Fox’s millions of viewers. And even after hundreds of pro-Trump rioters, inspired by the lie, laid siege to the Capitol, some hosts at the network downplayed what happened, spread conspiracy theories about it, and defended the insurrectionists.
Fanone said in an interview last month that it’s been difficult hearing politicians whitewash the “brutal, savage, hand-to-hand combat” he lived through, specifically quoting from an interview Trump gave on Fox News in March in which the former president claimed rioters posed “zero threat” and were “hugging and kissing” police.