As Jan. 6 Panel’s Evidence Piled Up, Conservative Media Doubled Down

As Jan. 6 Panel’s Evidence Piled Up, Conservative Media Doubled Down


After the committee’s final hearing of the summer last week on Jan. 6, the conversation on the sets of CNN and MSNBC turned into an interesting situation to see what the panel’s findings might yield. A criminal case against former President Donald J. Trump, many pundits say, was not only justified but more likely given the evidence of his inaction when rioters stormed the Capitol.

If it feels like déjà vu — more predictions of Mr. Trump’s downfall — the reaction to the hearings from pro-Trump platforms feels like something new, reflecting the lengths to which his friendly media will go. Defenders have gone on to rewrite violent history. of that day.

Even the committee’s stark depiction of Mr. Trump’s failure to intervene moved two influential outlets to the right. The New York Post And The Wall Street JournalTo denounce this over the weekend, many top conservative media figures have continued to push a more sanitized January 6, 2021 narrative. They have villainized the Capitol Police and alleged a government conspiracy to criminalize political dissent.

Talk radio host Mark Levin scoffed at the notion that Mr Trump had tried to overturn the election or incite a coup. If he was, Mr. Levine explained during an appearance on Fox News As other networks broadcast the hearings live.A former president may have taken more direct actions, such as ordering the arrest of Vice President Mike Pence or firing the attorney general.

“You’d think with all the talk of crime, they’d show us,” Mr. Levin said on Fox News Thursday night. “There is nothing,” he added. “There is absolutely zero evidence that Donald Trump was involved in an attempt to violently overthrow our election or our government. Literally nothing.”

And to put a finer point on what he meant, Mr. Levin read from a passage of 14th Amendment which states that anyone who is “involved in rebellion or insurrection” is barred from holding federal office.

That’s why the media kept calling Jan. 6 a “coup,” Mr. Levin explained.

(The author of this article is an MSNBC contributor.)

Part of the right’s message to Trump supporters, in fact, is this: You may have been initially horrified by what happened in the Capitol, but you were misled by the mainstream media.

“What’s strange is that when I talk to these people, their distaste for the media on Jan. 6 is stronger now than it was a year ago,” said Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman and talk radio host who has He left said. His unwavering support for Mr. Trump. By the time the committee gave its evidence, Mr Walsh added, “half the country didn’t give a damn or think it was a hoax.”

Disagreement can be annoying. The same Fox News hosts who risked having the president’s chief of staff intercede with the president or “destroy his legacy,” like Laura Ingraham. put it In a Jan. 6 text to Mark Meadows, he now accuses the mainstream media of exaggerating what’s happening in the Capitol.

The narrative often relies on a grain of truth about incomplete or conflicting statements from law enforcement and witnesses — a common occurrence in any investigation — that Mr. Trump’s allies in the media then magnify.

One of the most influential journalists on the right who has supported Mr. Trump since Jan. 6 is Julie Kelly, author of the website American Greatness, whose articles have garnered coverage in major conservative media outlets such as Fox News. Reported. For more than a year, Ms Kelly has cast doubt on the scale of the attack and downplayed the number of police officers killed at the scene that day.

one Preliminary report Brian Skunk, an officer, died after collapsing from injuries “physically engaging” with pro-Trump rioters, Capitol Police said Jan. 6. Post-mortem revealed that she died of natural causes. Multiple strokes A few hours after the attack.

Ms. Kelly and others seized on those findings, often without acknowledging that the officer had been attacked by rioters and sprayed with an unknown chemical irritant, or allowing for the possibility that he had. The trauma he suffered contributed to his condition, which the medical examiner noted “didn’t cause the skunk’s death as a result of anything that happened on January 6th.” He declared In a piece in April that ran under the headline “Defend the Capitol Police.” “But that’s not stopping the Capitol Police from spreading the lie that Trump supporters are responsible for his death,” Ms. Kelly added.

In an email, Ms. Kelly defended her article, saying, “As I continue to report, there is no medical evidence linking the events of January 6 to Officer Skunk’s stroke.”

Another way conservative media figures turn on the Capitol Police is to claim that the notion of people trespassing in the Capitol is a hoax.

The January 6 committee showed several videos of the vandalism of the rioters. One captured a member of the Proud Boys, Dominic PizzolaUsing a police shield to break a window, dozens of rioters stormed the building.

On Tucker Carlson’s Friday program on Fox News, he mocked testimony from an unnamed former White House security official who said Secret Service agents called his family to say goodbye if he was killed. . Then Mr. Carlson played video showing Capitol police officers, outnumbered, standing passively as rioters made their way through barricades.

“We don’t know why the police are letting people into the Capitol complex on video,” he said, calling the hearings a “show trial” and saying he was proud of his network for not airing it in prime time. .

As Capitol Police officers are portrayed as nothing less than heroic, new heroes emerge. A story that went viral on the right last week was about Pam Hemphill, a 69-year-old woman who recently began serving a 60-day prison sentence on Jan. 6 after pleading guilty to felony defamation at the Capitol. Hemphill was featured on The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, which replaced Rush Limbaugh’s program in many markets, featuring messages of sympathy from conservatives. The hosts described her as a victim – a grandmother and cancer patient who was punished unreasonably harshly.

“Think of the months of BLM protests across this country,” said Clay Travis referring to the Black Lives Matter movement. “How many of these original rioters are spending 60 days in jail for what they did? That’s absolutely indefensible.”

Even the committee’s biggest revelations have been absorbed by the right-wing media. When Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, described Mr. Trump’s violent response after Secret Service agents refused to escort him to the Capitol, some right-wing observers insisted that hearing the former president’s admirers Glad they are angry. Not able to go.

Breitbart News Daily host Alex Marlowe told his audience that many Trump supporters liked the idea of ​​their president fighting to join them at the Capitol, as he told them to do. will

In an email, Mr. Marlowe said he believed many conservatives in his audience watched the hearings during the impeachment proceedings and Investigation conducted by Robert S. Mueller III “Trump was once again the victim of a smear campaign by the political and media establishment,” he said, describing his audience’s view of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Part of the effectiveness of the conservative media’s defense of the former president’s behavior on January 6 is its uniformity. As the committee made its case, few broke ranks to question its actions. However, some have begun to show interest in other potential Trump rivals, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Ms. Ingraham aired her show on Friday in Florida, where she interviewed the governor.

But the blistering condemnation of Mr. Trump by the Post and Journal over the weekend suggests that deeper cracks may be beginning to open.

Both publications, which, like Fox News, are part of Rupert Murdoch’s conservative media empire, have published editorials questioning Mr Trump’s character. The Journal called the latest revelations of his inaction “appalling”.

The Post went further, calling his behavior an “eternal embarrassment” on January 6 and declaring, “Trump has again proven himself unfit to be the chief executive of this country.”

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