Fox News host Tucker Carlson used surveillance videos from inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to falsely claim on his show Monday that no riot happened that day.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) gave Carlson, a well-known Jan. 6 denialist, access to more than 40,000 hours of security camera footage from which Carlson cherry-picked several minutes of Donald Trump’s supporters calmly walking through the Capitol.
“Taken as a whole, the video record does not support the claim that Jan. 6 was an insurrection,” Carlson said. “In fact, it demolishes that claim.”
Supporters of then-President Trump fought police officers and smashed windows to gain access to the Capitol, where they ransacked several offices while lawmakers and staff barricaded themselves inside others. Rioters injured about 140 police officers, according to the Justice Department, and of the more than 1,000 people arrested in connection with the attack, 326 have been charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers or employees.
The former president sent his supporters to the Capitol after riling them up with months of lies about the 2020 election being stolen, which he capped off with a combative speech that day near the White House. The mob stormed the Capitol as lawmakers met to certify the election results in a proceeding that is usually little more than a formality.
At any given moment, of course, there were hallways where not much was going on, so Carlson used footage of quieter scenes to claim they better represent the day’s events than the videos of rioters attacking police.
“The crowd was enormous,” Carlson said. “A small percentage of them were hooligans. They committed vandalism. You’ve seen their pictures again and again. But the overwhelming majority weren’t. They were peaceful. They were orderly and meek. These were not insurrectionists. They were sightseers.”
Most sightseers at the Capitol don’t have to step over police barricades or broken glass in order to enter the building, and there usually aren’t loud explosions and screaming mobs. Several HuffPost reporters were present on Jan. 6, and it’s hard to claim that day in any way resembled a normal tourist visit.
But Carlson fixated on video of police officers appearing to escort the so-called “QAnon Shaman” through Senate hallways, suggesting he and others shouldn’t have been charged with crimes. The Capitol Police told the New York Post they were trying to de-escalate the situation because they were outnumbered that day.
The Capitol Police declined to comment. But a Hill source told HuffPost on Tuesday that Carlson’s show “never reached out to the [Capitol Police] department to balance out the commentary, which will fuel more dangerous conspiracy theories.”
McCarthy’s decision to hand the footage to Carlson represents a major escalation of the Republican effort to cast doubt on the insurrection, which McCarthy blamed on Trump in the early days after the attack before he then tried to deflect accountability from the former president. Still, McCarthy said last year that he agreed the attack was a “violent insurrection.” With McCarthy’s help, Carlson insisted Monday night that not only was Jan. 6 not an insurrection, it wasn’t even a riot.
Carlson claimed on Monday that Democrats suppressed video evidence so they could lie about the riot as “a pretext for a federal crackdown on opponents of the uniparty in Washington.”
Carlson also claimed that Capitol Police “murdered” a rioter named Ashli Babbitt as she tried to break into a room next to the chamber of the House of Representatives (McCarthy said recently the officer did his job). And Carlson once again claimed, without credible evidence, that undercover federal agents caused the hooliganism that did occur.
As for the nearly $3 million in damage rioters inflicted that day, Carlson suggested they didn’t mean it.
“They’re not destroying the Capitol,” he said. “They obviously revere the Capitol.”