On March 22, Newsmax host Greg Kelly interviewed Donald Trump, and the former president touted his inhumane border policies, took credit for vaccine development, and continued to proliferate the unfounded election conspiracy theories that inspired the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Over the past month, Kelly has argued for the insurrectionists’ temporary release from jail, claiming that the men are unfairly villainized criminals deserving of mercy from the criminal justice system.
Last fall, Kelly successfully established himself as Newsmax’s prime-time star, receiving a ratings boost from then-President Trump for steering his show, Greg Kelly Reports, into increasingly baseless and erratic election conspiracy theories. Kelly, the son of a former New York City police commissioner, often lectured about the necessity of law and order and the importance of respect for law enforcement.
In the following days and weeks after the January 6 pro-Trump putsch that left five dead and injured 140 Capitol Police officers, Kelly has offered mixed responses to the attack. In addition to responding with denial and racial grievance, he has stated that the insurrectionists “responsible need to be punished.” He also conceded that January 6 “was a horrible moment” but argued that the violence and legal transgressions of the day did not represent the former president or his supporters.
And over time, while remaining adamant in his support of the former president, Kelly has eased his condemnation of key Capitol insurrectionists. Here’s what he’s said about them:
On January 25, Brandon Straka, founder of the #WalkAway movement, was charged with a felony for interfering with police during the insurrection on January 6 as well as counts of unlawful entry and disorderly conduct. Straka had appeared on Kelly’s show in the days following the insurrection, and on January 27, Kelly expressed doubt about evidence cited in the criminal complaint against Straka and told his audience, “I like him.”
“QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley
On February 10, Kelly claimed that because self-described “QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley was not seen “hurting anybody” or “breaking anything,” he should be released from jail before trial.
A couple of weeks later, Kelly hosted Chansley’s lawyer Albert Watkins, allowing Watkins to describe his client as a misunderstood “peaceful” and “gentle” man. Kelly noted out that during the insurrection, Chansley appeared “kind of polite” and “nice to law enforcement.”
On March 9, Kelly again advocated for Chansley’s release, with guest Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) also complaining about insurrectionists remaining in jail while other violent criminals roam free.
Richard Barnett caused national outrage after a photo went viral showing him sitting with his feet on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk on January 6. Barnett also gave an interview with a New York Times reporter outside the Capitol in which he boasted that he took a personalized envelope and left a “nasty” note on the speaker’s desk.
Kelly hosted Barnett’s lawyer Joseph McBride on March 5. McBride said Barnett had been leading a “law-abiding life for 60 years,” and Kelly commented after seeing a picture of Barnett with his dog that Barnett looked “like a nice guy.
Kelly brushed off a New York Times investigation of the Proud Boys and their coordinated plan to disrupt the certification of Trump’s electoral defeat. Instead, Kelly mused that many in media had unfairly characterized the group as a white supremacist group because it is actually made up of “all kinds of people from all kinds of races.”