On April 6, Fox News personality Tucker Carlson observed the three-month anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol—in order to mock the idea that it was noteworthy at all, and in a clear escalation of the effort not just to downplay what happened but to reframe it as almost heroic. Let’s review the reality.
On Jan. 6, a mob of violent Trump supporters threw aside police barriers and used poles and police shields to bash in windows and enter the U.S. Capitol. Hundreds of attackers massed outside a door and pushed en masse, shouting “heave ho” as police struggled to defend the door and keep them out. At least one officer was crushed in a door and had his helmet torn off. One Capitol Police officer was killed. Two more died by suicide not long after. A Washington, D.C. Metropolitan police officer was Tased until he had a minor heart attack, and heard his attackers yelling, “Kill him with his own gun.” Another was attacked by members of the mob who tore off his helmet and tried to gouge his eyes out. Many officers were sprayed with mace and bear spray. A Trump supporter in the crowd was trampled to death by her own people. Another Trump supporter was shot by law enforcement as she tried to climb through a recently smashed-in window very close to where members of Congress were under protection. There’s so much evidence of what happened that federal prosecutors call it “likely the most complex investigation ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice.”
This isn’t rumor. We have video—watch a small taste of it below.
Tucker described it, with over-the-top sarcasm, as the “white supremacist QAnon insurrection, that came so very close to toppling our government and ending this democracy forever.”
As if only the actual toppling of the government would have made it problematic to have people bashing in the windows of the seat of government, stealing things from government offices, and roaming the halls chanting their desire to hang the vice president—all as part of an effort to block the final certification of an election that had been affirmed and reaffirmed by local and state election boards, courts, and the Electoral College. As though only if all those flex-cuffs had been used on members of Congress would it have been a problem that men were stalking around carrying them.
“You saw what happened. It was carried live on television, every gruesome moment,” Carlson continued in the vocal equivalent of an eye roll. “A mob of older people from unfashionable zip codes somehow made it all the way to Washington, D.C., probably by bus. They wandered freely through the Capitol, like it was their building or something. They didn’t have guns, but a lot of them had extremely dangerous ideas.”
Police officers on the scene have been very clear that some of the insurrectionists did have guns. One rioter was arrested with multiple guns, including an AR-15, and Molotov cocktails in his truck parked nearby. Bombs were planted nearby. They also had stun guns and flag poles and all that mace and bear spray. They threw police barricades and fire extinguishers. They included organized cadres of hate group members.
Perhaps most of all, the idea that you can change the results of an election through violence because you didn’t like the result is in fact a dangerous idea. It’s one of the most dangerous ideas.
“They talked about the Constitution, and something called their rights. Some of them made openly seditious claims,” he said. “They insisted, for example, that the last election wasn’t entirely fair. The whole thing was terrifying, and then, as you’ve been told so very often, they committed unspeakable acts of violence.”
Carlson is being sarcastic, of course, acting like he’s exaggerating what happened in order to downplay it. But we are talking about people who pulled multiple police officers away from their stations and beat them. This is what Carlson is being sarcastic about, mocking the very idea that these “older people from unfashionable zip codes” could have “committed unspeakable acts of violence.”
The sedition—and there was sedition—was not that they claimed the election wasn’t entirely fair but that they were trying to overturn the results of a legal election through violence. They were talking about the Constitution … but their actions were to directly violate it.
Carlson went on to claim that Ashli Babbitt, the QAnon-believing Trump supporter shot as she climbed through a window, was “to this day … the one completely verified casualty of the insurrection, the only person whose death we can say definitively was caused by specific events on January 6.” Yeah. The specific event is that she was trying to get to the House chamber, where members of Congress were being quickly evacuated, and she was part of a mob that pushed past multiple police officers and then she tried to go through a broken window despite the fact that there was an officer with a gun clearly pointing at her.
But that’s not the only verified casualty. The New York Times has showed definitively how Rosanne Boyland, another Trump supporter intent on storming the Capitol, was trampled to death by the members of the mob around her.
Tucker Carlson isn’t interested in the reality of the situation, of course. He’s interested in telling his viewers that the insurrection was justified. Heroic, even. He went on to frame opposition to the bloody attack on the Capitol as entirely partisan, as something Democrats are mad about only because it was in opposition to Democrats. That would be how Republicans would think about it, for sure. But what Carlson is doing here is trying to delegitimize opposition to violent insurrection—when committed by Republicans—just as Donald Trump spent months trying to delegitimize the election results. This must be understood as a campaign to make the response to the Capitol attack partisan. Trump was impeached for inciting this insurrection, with 10 House Republicans voting to impeach and seven Senate Republicans voting to convict. When Fox News is done rewriting the story, the people beating down windows of the Capitol with poles and police shields and Tasing police officers will be unambiguously the heroes of the day. That’s where this is going.