In the space of just two days, Fox News legal analyst Jonathan Turley demonstrated the shameless hypocrisy of right-wing media outlets in their attempt to deny and downplay the investigation of former President Donald Trump’s coup attempt in January 2021, while trying to claim that the real threat of political violence in America today comes from the “reckless rhetoric” of liberals.
Turley appeared on Wednesday’s edition of America’s Newsroom, speaking with co-anchor Bill Hemmer about The Washington Post’s recent report that the Justice Department is investigating Trump’s actions on January 6 as part of a criminal probe. But as Turley would have it, there is really no case for linking Trump to the violence.
“As you know, the January 6 committee promised at the start of the hearings that they would be presenting new evidence that demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that crimes were committed by former President Trump. They failed to make that case,” Turley said. “In fact, they didn't really introduce a lot of new evidence in terms of the elements of various crimes that have been suggested. So, the question is, does the Department of Justice have more information that we haven't seen thus far?”
In fact, the House select committee investigating the insurrection has revealed that Trump knew the rally crowd he had gathered together was armed, even wanting to remove the metal detectors for them, and saying that they were “not here to hurt me” before he willfully sent them to the Capitol. Trump then sat at the White House and watched the riot on Fox News while he did nothing to stop it for over three hours, and expressed his support for rioters who chanted about hanging then-Vice President Mike Pence for not following his unconstitutional demand to refuse to certify the election results. (Trump has also repeated that sentiment since then.)
Turley blatantly ignored this trove of evidence revealed by the committee, instead declaring that a single phrase from Trump’s entire speech, set against the rest of his belligerent rhetoric that day, is enough to exonerate him: “The president told his followers to go to Capitol Hill to protest peacefully. Now, while the committee keeps deleting that sentence when they presented his speech at the Ellipse, he did say it, and that would be in the trial.”
As it turns out, however, Turley also applies a very different set of standards to political violence when it can be associated in any way with Fox’s political opponents.
Just one day after his remarks absolving Trump of blame for the violence on January 6, Turley appeared Thursday morning on Fox & Friends. This time, though, he claimed that protests against conservative Supreme Court justices were “fueling” violence.
“There is a certain percentage of people out there who are unhinged and unstable, they hear this rhetoric in a different way,” Turley explained, pointing not only to the arrest of a suspect for allegedly plotting to kill Justice Brett Kavanaugh, but even Justice Clarence Thomas’ withdrawal from teaching a law school course amid campus protests against him.
If Turley is concerned about political rhetoric fueling domestic political violence, he ought to compare each party’s response to recent attacks. On the one hand, the Biden administration condemned the threat against Kavanaugh, and supported law enforcement in taking the suspect into custody. By contrast, Trump tweeted a message attacking Pence on January 6 as Pence’s security detail sent messages fearing for their lives. (And in the time he has been out of office, Trump has repeatedly pushed the idea of pardoning the rioters if he gets back into the White House.)