Tucker Carlson’s depiction of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol as a mere sightseeing visit by concerned patriots has generated a little pushback in the Republican Party. But only very little.
Sen. Thom Tillis, of North Carolina, was the Republican who spoke the most bluntly about Carlson’s portrayal, calling it “bullshit.”
“I was here. I was down there and I saw maybe a few tourists, a few people who got caught up in things,” he told reporters. “But when you see police barricades breached, 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.”
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Sen. Kevin Cramer, of North Dakota, was also straightforward about Carlson’s falsehoods. “I think that breaking through glass windows and doors to get into the United States Capitol against the borders of police is a crime. I think particularly when you come into the chambers, when you start opening the members' desks, when you stand up in their balcony—to somehow put that in the same category as, you know, permitted peaceful protest is just a lie,” he said.
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney seemed to have just noticed who Tucker Carlson has been all along, saying he was “really sad to see Tucker Carlson go off the rails like that,” saying that he’s “joining a range of shock jocks that are disappointing America and feeding falsehoods.” But he too went on to be specific about what Carlson did.
“The American people saw what happened on Jan. 6." Romney told 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.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also took issue with Carlson’s broadcast, although he did so very carefully. "I want to associate myself entirely with the opinion of the chief and the Capitol Police about what happened on January 6," McConnell told reporters, holding up a copy of the letter. "It was a mistake, in my view, for Fox News to depict this in a way that’s completely at variance with what our chief law enforcement official here at the Capitol thinks.”
Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger had called Carlson’s claims “offensive and misleading,” and noted that Carlson did not ask the Capitol Police for “accurate context.”
“The program conveniently cherry-picked from the calmer moments of our 41,000 hours of video,” Manger wrote. “That commentary fails to provide context about the chaos and violence that happened before or during these less tense moments.” Manger also blasted Carlson for his “disturbing” claim that officer Brian Sicknick’s death was not a result of the attack.
So that’s what McConnell was associating himself with. What McConnell refused to do, multiple times, was criticize Speaker Kevin McCarthy in any way for giving Carlson free rein with the footage to craft such a false narrative.
Cramer did hint at a criticism of McCarthy over the decision, saying he could instead have given the footage to “all sources equally,” instead of just “one who is particularly good at conservative entertainment.”
South Dakota Republican Sen. Mike Rounds, who also affirmed that “There was violence on Jan. 6,” also implied a criticism of McCarthy for giving Carlson the exclusive story, saying, “I think the footage that’s available should be made available to all networks and everybody should be able to see for themselves just what kind of chaos we had on that day.”
But while a handful of Republican senators called out Carlson’s false narrative, plenty of Republicans were cheering him on. “Truth is beginning to be revealed,” Sen. Ron Johnson tweeted. “Thank you @SpeakerMcCarthy, @TuckerCarlson & company for showing America the rest of the Jan. 6 story.” As if the existence of some moments that were not visibly violent is a “rest of the story” that somehow wipes clean the violence.
“Thank you to @TuckerCarlson for exposing the lies of the partisan Jan. 6 ‘Witch Hunt’ Committee,” Rep. Mary Miller tweeted. “They hid videos & evidence from the American people to advance a partisan political narrative. Tucker is shining a light & sharing the TRUTH because ‘Democracy Dies In Darkness!’”
Obviously Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene had to weigh in, tweeting, “The J6 Committee LIED to America. @TuckerCarlson is revealing the truth. They must be held accountable.” Again, as if the ability to cherry-pick footage in which no blood was being spilled exonerates everyone involved. It’s like when you stuff all the messy stuff into the closet and pretend like your house is really clean.
Reps. Thomas Massie and Warren Davidson were also out there tweet-cheering Carlson’s lies.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer offered a Democratic response, saying, “Speaker McCarthy is every bit as culpable as Mr. Carlson. Speaker McCarthy’s decision to share security footage with Fox looked like a mistake from the very beginning. But after last night, it looks like a disaster.”
Carlson directly claimed that “They were orderly and meek. These were not insurrectionists, they were sightseers. Footage from inside the Capitol overturns the story you’ve heard about January 6. Protesters queue up in neat little lines. They give each other tours outside the speaker’s office. They take cheerful selfies and they smile. They’re not destroying the Capitol, they obviously revere the Capitol. They’re there because they believe the election was stolen from them. They believe in the system.” Those were lies, and he was doing Republican work there. He packaged that with a renewed claim that the 2020 election was stolen.
”The protesters were angry. They believed that the election they had just voted in had been unfairly conducted,” Carlson said. “They were right. In retrospect, it is clear the 2020 election was a grave betrayal of American democracy. Given the facts that have since emerged about that election, no honest person can deny it.”
This is designed to convince people that Jan. 6 was a righteous and noble pursuit, not a bloody attack on the Capitol intended to prevent Congress from doing its part in the peaceful transition of power. That’s not just a line Carlson is pushing to attempt to whitewash the past. It’s about the future, too. And that’s the really scary part.
National security only one of many reasons McCarthy had no business giving J6 video to Tucker
So now Republicans are suddenly worried about the safety of publicizing Jan. 6 attack footage