One day after a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, Rush Limbaugh implicitly endorsed political violence and at the same time blamed the attack partly on so-called “antifa” “instigators.” Some of Limbaugh’s fellow conservative talk radio hosts have similarly attempted to downplay the mob’s actions, dismissing calls to condemn the violence and suggesting that the attack was actually a “false flag” operation.
On Wednesday, a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters attacked the Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. The attack left multiple people dead and was inspired by baseless claims of a stolen election that both Trump and his allies on talk radio helped to spread.
Most of these radio personalities — with the notable exception of Limbaugh — offered at least a perfunctory condemnation of political violence in response to Wednesday’s events. But hosts have tried to avoid reckoning with the rioters’ actions in other ways, falsely blaming “antifa” for the violence or complaining about how the mob was treated in media coverage compared to Black Lives Matter protesters.
Limbaugh, appearing on air for the first time this year on Thursday, disagreed with those “who say that any violence or aggression at all is unacceptable.” Limbaugh then invoked the Revolutionary War, arguing, “I am glad Sam Adams, Thomas Paine, the actual Tea Party guys, the men at Lexington and Concord didn't feel that way.”
Without evidence, Limbaugh also claimed that the Capitol rioters “undoubtedly” included “some antifa Democrat-sponsored instigators.” The FBI has said that there is currently no evidence suggesting anti-fascists were involved in the riot.
In the same show, Limbaugh mocked media coverage critical of the mob by claiming that the riot was less destructive than recent racial justice protests. The host stated that there was no looting on Wednesday and that protesters only “took selfies” — when in fact there were numerous reports of rioters looting the Capitol building. Limbaugh also compared the riot to protests that took place during Trump’s impeachment, complaining, “All of the sudden protesting Congress is being called the end of the world.”
Shortly after Limbaugh made his comments on Thursday, Vicki McKenna, a local host in Wisconsin, also mocked the calls to condemn political violence. McKenna opened her show by stating, “I suppose I should open up with the obligatory, vacuous, nonsensical, silly and meaningless statement that I condemn all violence. Maybe I should do that like everybody else has.”
Like Limbaugh, McKenna also accused anti-fascists of contributing to the violence. McKenna claimed, “Two busloads of antifa infiltrated the Trump protest yesterday. … They had an escort. They actually had an escort making their ease of travel substantially better than most other people who were trying to get to that event yesterday,” referring to a debunked viral social media claim. McKenna continued, “‘We denounce, renounce, condemn all violence.’ Translation: We don’t want to know what happened. We don’t care what happened. We don’t want to have to think about what happened. We don’t want to confront what happened.”
Multiple hosts pointed to “antifa” as a way to partially excuse the actions of the pro-Trump mob
- Immediately after rioters stormed the Capitol on Wednesday, Limbaugh’s guest host, Todd Herman, claimed he could tell through “learned experience” that “antifa agitators” were present.
- Fox host Sean Hannity also suggested that “antifa” was involved on his radio program on Wednesday, and he said anti-fascists had disguised themselves by wearing “MAGA gear.”
- The same day, Texas-based host Michael Berry claimed, “It was probably antifa. We’ll find out. It was probably antifa that broke the barricade and started all of this. … So no, I’m not going to let you blame this on good patriots because you so want to impress the media and the Democrats.”
- Garret Lewis, a host based in Arizona, attempted to explain the motivations of the rioters on Thursday, arguing, “The straw that broke the camel’s back was we saw all of the fraud going on and judges refused to hear the cases. … What the hell did these idiots think was going to happen when it got down to the end? What did they think was going to happen? Did they think we weren’t going to fight? Did they think we weren’t going to be pissed?” Lewis continued, “Nobody wanted to see what happened yesterday. We just couldn’t take it anymore, whether it was antifa starting it, doing it. I bet you it was a combination of antifa and of course some extremely pissed off people.”
- Pennsylvania host Ken Matthews alluded to a larger conspiracy and “false flag violence” without mentioning “antifa” by name. Matthews claimed, “You mean the false flag violence? You mean the violence that, out of 1.3 million people, about 18 were actually involved in? That violence? The violence that President Trump did not order but the media was set up to cover? That violence? Yes. This is such a false flag, this is so much puppetry. And the headlines are ridiculous.”