WASHINGTON — Most Senate Republicans aren’t interested in rewriting the history of Jan. 6, 2021, even after influential Fox News host Tucker Carlson downplayed the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol.
During his program Monday night, Carlson aired selectively edited Capitol surveillance video of the attack, portraying the day’s harrowing events as a gentle tourist visit with Donald Trump supporters calmly walking through the Capitol.
“I think it’s bullshit,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) told reporters Tuesday when asked about Carlson’s portrayal of the events as mostly peaceful. “When you see police officers assaulted, all of that ... if you were just a tourist, you should’ve probably lined up at the visitors’ center and came in on an orderly basis.”
“I was there on Jan. 6. I saw how violent it was,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) added.
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said Jan. 6 “was clearly more than a peaceful protest of some rowdy boy scouts,” while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he wasn’t interested in “whitewashing” the events.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) erred by handing over the surveillance footage only to Carlson.
“It’s really sad to see Tucker Carlson go off the rails like that. The American people saw what happened on Jan. 6. They’ve seen the people who got injured. They saw the damage to the building. You can’t hide the truth by selectively picking a few minutes out of tapes. It’s so absurd, it’s nonsense,” Romney said.
Federal prosecutors have charged nearly 1,000 people with crimes for their actions that day, according to the Justice Department, including more than 300 for assaulting or interfering with police. More than 500 rioters have pleaded guilty, 60 of them for attacking officers.
The mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an effort to stop lawmakers from certifying the 2020 presidential election result, which the former president claimed for months had been rigged against him. Trump had summoned his supporters to Washington for a “wild” protest and then riled them up that day with a speech near the White House, telling them to go to the Capitol.
Carlson obtained the footage exclusively from McCarthy, who said last year that “no one would disagree” that the riot was a violent insurrection. It’s not clear whether McCarthy still feels that way; he declined to answer questions about Carlson as he entered his office on Tuesday afternoon.
McCarthy won the speaker’s gavel by pandering to the far right of his caucus, and giving the security footage to Carlson is part of that effort. From the start, several House Republicans have sought to deflect blame from Trump for unleashing the mob, and the new Republican majority has even created a committee devoted to discrediting the FBI.
Trump and far-right House GOP members like Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia are now calling on Trump supporters who were charged or pleaded guilty in connection to Jan. 6 to be released from prison, including the so-called “QAnon Shaman” who stormed the barricades at the Capitol and posed for photos at the dais in the Senate chamber.
“I don’t understand why this guy gets 41 months [in jail] for walking around in the Capitol with the flag in his hand. That doesn’t make any sense,” said Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), a top Trump ally who voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), who also voted to throw out some 2020 election results, credited Carlson for giving “a more accurate portrayal of what really happened” on Jan. 6.
Members of the public were by no means supposed to be inside the Capitol that day, and those who were there crossed police lines to get inside. The vast majority of defendants have been charged with unlawfully entering or remaining in a federal building.
Playing to the base regarding the events of Jan. 6 may help McCarthy solidify his standing on the right, but it does little if anything to help Republicans win elections nationally, as evidenced by their losses in the 2022 elections.
“Completely placating the base of my party is not the right way forward for the Republican Party or for the country,” Romney said.
“To me, it’s time to move on from it,” Cramer added. “It really doesn’t do anything to bolster that our party is forward-looking.”