Democrats and Republicans in Congress on Tuesday criticized Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s characterization of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol as “mostly peaceful chaos.”
Lawmakers said the segment on Carlson’s program Monday was an attempt to grossly rewrite history, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who said airing it was a “mistake.”
What You Need To Know
- Fox News’ Tucker Carlson says security video from the U.S. Capitol shows a mostly peaceful demonstration on Jan. 6, 2021
- The comments that were quickly blasted by members of both major parties as an attempt to grossly rewrite history
- Carlson presented his findings on his show Monday night after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy gave the conservative TV host’s staff exclusive access to more than 40,000 hours of security video from the insurrection
- According to the Justice Department, at least 1,000 people have been arrested in connection with the riot, including 326 for assaulting, resisting or impeding officers of employees
Carlson presented his findings on his show Monday night after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., gave the conservative TV host’s staff exclusive access to more than 40,000 hours of security video from the insurrection.
Carlson, however, insisted the video proves the events at the Capitol were neither an insurrection nor violent.
“The video record does not support the claim that Jan. 6 was an insurrection,” Carlson said on the program. “In fact, it demolishes that claim.
“A small percentage of them were hooligans,” he said of those who entered the building. “They committed vandalism. These were not insurrectionists. They were sightseers.”
On Jan. 6, supporters of then-President Donald Trump clashed with police and stormed the Capitol, disrupting Congress as it met to certify Joe Biden’s election victory. The rioting erupted shortly after Trump spoke at a nearby rally repeating false claims that widespread fraud was to blame for his loss.
According to the Justice Department, at least 1,000 people have been arrested in connection with the riot and about 140 police officers were assaulted. In all, more than 570 people have so far been convicted of crimes related to Jan. 6. Some individuals connected to the attack have been convicted of sedition.
Video footage shown from that day during the Jan. 6 hearings showed protesters fighting with police officers, forcing their way into the Capitol by smashing windows and damaging other property, as lawmakers were rushed to secure locations.
At least nine people who were at the Capitol died on Jan. 6 or in the days and weeks after, including Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, who was shot by a police officer as she tried to climb through a window into the Capitol. Three other Trump supporters suffered medical emergencies.
Five police officers died shortly after, including two by suicide. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died the following day after suffering two strokes, according to the Washington medical examiner.
On the Senate floor Tuesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called Carlson’s Monday show “one of the most shameful hours we have ever seen on cable television.”
“By diving deep into the waters of conspiracy and cherry-picking from thousands of hours of security footage, Mr. Carlson told the bald-faced lie that the Capitol attack, which we all saw with their own eyes, was somehow not an attack at all,” Schumer said.
Schumer urged Fox News to block Carlson from running a second segment on the footage Tuesday night. The majority leader also said McCarthy is “every bit as culpable” as Carlson because he shared the footage with him.
McCarthy defended his decision to give Carlson access to the video, telling The New York Times last month that he “promised” greater transparency around the surveillance footage.
Fox News did not respond to a request for comment in response to the criticism about Carlson’s findings.
Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said in an internal memo Tuesday that Carlson “cherry-picked the calmer moments of our 41,000 hours of video.”
“The commentary fails to provide context about the chaos and violence that happened before or during these less tense moments,” he said, according to Politico. Capitol Police confirmed the memo’s validity to Spectrum News.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday, "Anybody who watched that video — with their own eyes, in a real way, and saw what happened on that day would — would disagree with" Carlson's characterization of the events.
"It was one of the darkest days of our democracy," she added. "And all you have to do is watch those videos and see how horrific it was, see how sad it was."
Several Republicans criticized Carlson’s reporting.
“With regard to the presentation on Fox News last night, I want to associate myself entirely with the opinion of the chief of the Capitol Police about what happened on Jan. 6,” McConnell said Tuesday, adding that in his view, Manger “correctly describes what most of us witnessed firsthand on Jan. 6.”
“It was a mistake, in my view, for Fox News to depict this in a way that is completely at variance with what our chief law enforcement official here at Capitol thinks,” he added.
Former Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who was a member of the Jan. 6 committee, accused Carlson of selectively editing video to fit his narrative.
“It’s disgusting,” Kinzinger said on CNN, where he is now a political commentator. “ … The sad thing is you're going to have people that have only gotten their news on Fox News that are never going to have the opportunity to hear the truth.”
Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., told CNN, “To somehow put that in the same category as a permitted peaceful protest is just a lie.”
"I was here," Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana told Politico. "It was not peaceful. It was an abomination. You’re entitled to believe what you want in America, but you can’t resort to violence to try to convince others of your point of view."
“The American people saw what happened on Jan. 6." Utah Sen. Mitt Romney said to reporters. "They’ve seen the people that got injured. They saw the damage to the building. You can’t hide the truth by selectively picking a few minutes out of tapes and saying this is what went on.
"It’s so absurd. It’s nonsense," Romey continued. "It’s a very dangerous thing to do, to suggest that attacking the Capitol of the United States is in any way acceptable and it’s anything other than a serious crime, against democracy and against our country.
"Trying to normalize that behavior is dangerous and disgusting," Romney added.
And Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., told NBC that Carlson’s claims are “bull****.”
"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,” he said.
Some Republicans, however, applauded Carlson’s conclusions.
“You've exposed so many lies tonight with these tapes that it's changed my perception of what happened two years ago, and I was there,” Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., told the Fox host on his show Monday night.
“Thank you @SpeakerMcCarthy, @TuckerCarlson & company for showing America the rest of the Jan. 6 story,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., tweeted Monday night. “ … Doesn’t look like ‘thousands of armed insurrectionists’ to me.”
Carlson has previously promoted claims without evidence that federal agents incited Jan. 6 to entrap American citizens. And more recently, private text messages emerged in which Carlson said he didn’t believe there was enough fraud to change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election but warned others within the company that Trump could damage the network if it did not present his claims to viewers. The texts were included in a court filing in Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News.
In arguing his case Monday night, Carlson pointed to footage of Sicknick walking in the Capitol after, the host said, “he was supposedly murdered.” Carlson said the officer appeared “healthy and vigorous” and his death “was very obviously not the result of violence he suffered at the entrance to the Capitol.”
Two men allegedly assaulted Sicknick on Jan. 6 by spraying a powerful chemical irritant at him. The medical examiner found no evidence the 42-year-old officer suffered an allergic reaction to the chemical or suffered internal or external injuries, but he added in an April 2021 interview with The Washington Post that “all that transpired [on Jan. 6] played a role in his condition.”
In a statement obtained by CNN on Tuesday, the Sicknick family said they are “outraged at the ongoing attack on our family by the unscrupulous and outright sleazy so called ‘news’ network of FOX news who will do the bidding of Trump or any of his sycophant followers.”
Note: This article was updated to include additional information.