Following the first public hearing from the House January 6 select committee, Fox News hosts repeatedly lied that outgoing President Donald Trump had called for up to 20,000 National Guard troops to secure the Capitol prior to the insurrection. The claim – which initially put the number of requested troops at 10,000 – has been repeatedly debunked by fact checkers, and Fox News has offered no new evidence to support it.
“Can you explain to me how the guy that authorized 20,000 – or up to 20,000 National Guard troops is responsible for a riot that he was clearly trying to prevent?” asked Fox News’ Sean Hannity.
Fox & Friends’ Ainsley Earhardt claimed that prior to the riot, Trump said, “We need to make sure we have 20,000 National Guard troops.”
“I requested … I definitely gave the number of 10,000 National Guardsmen, and [said] I think you should have 10,000 of the National Guard ready. They took that number. From what I understand, they gave it to the people at the Capitol, which is controlled by Pelosi. And I heard they rejected it because they didn’t think it would look good. So, you know, that was a big mistake.”
What actually happened was that Trump made a passing remark about having the National Guard on hand for his speech, which acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller took as a sign that Trump expected millions of supporters to show up, according to reporting from Vanity Fair. It was not an official request, and Trump’s claim that the Pentagon transmitted the number to the Capitol Police is also false. “We have no record of such an order being given,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told the Washington Post.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) office didn’t receive any notification or order from Trump or the Department of Defense, either.
“Pelosi’s spokesman said she was not consulted about the National Guard before Jan. 6,” PolitiFact noted in its debunking of Trump’s initial claim. “And the former House sergeant-at-arms, who reported to Pelosi, testified that he had no discussions about National Guard troops with any congressional leaders before Jan. 6.”
The inflation from 10,000 to 20,000 troops also appears to have come from Fox News. On the one-year anniversary of the attempted coup, Sean Hannity interviewed Kash Patel, a Trump loyalist who was installed as Pentagon chief of staff on November 10, 2020.
“Did Donald Trump call for 10-20,000 National Guard troops to be on standby January 6? Did he do it two days before January 6?” Hannity asked Patel.
“I was in the Oval Office on that day, days prior to January 6, with the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and others and President Trump. He authorized as the law requires 10-20,000 National Guardsmen and women to be utilized around the country,” Patel responded.
Patel didn’t offer any new evidence that Trump had actually ordered the troops to be deployed, and his own testimony is inherently unreliable. He has a history of spreading misinformation, and a vested interest in obscuring what he knew about Trump’s plans for January 6 and his actions that day.
Further undermining the claim that Trump somehow wanted to prevent the riot is the fact that as it was underway, he didn’t order the National Guard to deploy to stop it. Vice President Mike Pence did issue several orders for National Guard troops to deploy, according to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley. Pence’s urgency in the matter makes sense, given that the insurrectionists were chanting, “Hang Mike Pence,” apparently to Trump’s approval.
The clear purpose of this lie is to recast Trump as a victim of a nebulous deep state that thwarted his attempts to protect the Capitol from an insurrection. The truth is the exact opposite: With every new revelation, the public record shows that Trump and his lawyers and advisers were at the center of planning to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Nothing that Fox News hosts say can change that.