An image of the January 6 insurrection with shadows of media figures over it

Andrea Austria / Media Matters

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Here are the key right-wing media figures who rewrote the history of January 6

For the past three years, Tucker Carlson, Darren Beattie, Julie Kelly, Steve Bannon, and others have pushed a revisionist counternarrative that has undone the initial consensus about the attacks

In the years since the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which was spurred by then-President Donald Trump’s attempt to retain power, right-wing media figures have repeatedly whitewashed the violent attack, pushed misinformation and conspiracy theories about it, and defended its participants. 

As a result, the initial consensus of the horrors of the day has disappeared, with Republicans reportedly “now less likely to believe that Jan. 6 participants were ‘mostly violent,’ less likely to believe Trump bears responsibility for the attack, and … slightly less likely to view Joe Biden’s election as legitimate.” 

The following right-wing media personalities have been critical in the push to downplay January 6, and they have continued their apologia for the violent crowd that sought to overturn an election. 

  • Darren Beattie

  • Beattie was a speechwriter and policy aide for then-President Trump who was fired in 2018 for attending a white nationalist conference two years before. In 2020, he founded right-wing site Revolver News, with Trump himself praising the outlet’s commentary. Beattie has repeatedly pushed the baseless conspiracy theory that the FBI, in connection with an undercover agent named Ray Epps, helped to incite the January 6 riot.

    • 2021: Beattie spread a conspiracy theory that Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick’s death was not a result of injuries sustained in the attack, calling his claims “the most important story Revolver has ever run.” Fox’s Tucker Carlson also highlighted the story, calling it an “exhaustive and fascinating new analysis.” [Media Matters, 2/12/21]
    • 2022: Beattie and his news outlet, Revolver News, were crucial in pushing the false claim that Capitol rioter Ray Epps was an undercover FBI agent who duped the crowd into entering the Capitol building. Epps has sued Fox News, and his suit describes Beattie as “the principal person driving the false story that Epps was a federal agent planted as a provocateur to trigger the Capitol violence on January 6th.” [Media Matters, 1/19/22; The New York Times, 7/12/23]
    • 2023-present: Beattie has continued to falsely allege that Epps was a federal agent, claiming he was treated leniently for that reason. In posts on X from September, Beattie claimed that “charging Ray Epps now for ‘disorderly conduct’ is not going to make the Feds' credibility problem go away.” Beattie additionally called the government’s case against Epps “a phony charge” that “will only make things worse for the Fed narrative.” He also suggested that the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was a false flag and said that the Justice Department and FBI should “at least do us the courtesy of a high effort cover up like you did with OKC” for January 6. [Media Matters, 9/21/23; Twitter/X, 9/19/23, 9/19/23, 9/19/23, 9/19/23]
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  • Julie Kelly

  • Kelly is a prolific conspiracy theorist who has written for a number of conservative outlets, mainly American Greatness, National Review, and The Federalist. Then-Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) gave Kelly and former Trump adviser John Solomon special access to security camera footage from the Capitol attack, as she claimed that conservatives were being unjustly persecuted. 

    • 2021: Kelly called January 6 Metropolitan Police Department officer Michael Fanone a “crisis actor.” [Media Matters, 7/27/21]
    • 2022: On One America News, Kelly pushed a conspiracy theory that the FBI fabricated pipe bombs that were discovered at the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C. the night before the January 6 riot. Kelly also published a book where she claimed that the Biden administration is weaponizing January 6 to persecute conservatives and criminalize political protest. [One America News, Tipping Point with Kara McKinney2/16/22; Google Books, accessed 1/5/23, Post Hill Press, accessed 1/5/24]
    • 2023-present: Kelly repeatedly spread the Epps conspiracy theory, and when Epps was charged, she questioned why he wasn’t charged with more crimes, posting, “No obstruction felony? No civil disorder charge? Not even a trespassing on restricted grounds misdemeanor?” Kelly also claimed that the Biden’s Justice Department has “successfully criminalized political speech and activity.” In May, then-Speaker McCarthy reportedly gave Kelly special access to security camera footage from the Capitol attack. [Media Matters, 9/21/235/31/23; The Washington Post, 6/6/23; Premiere Networks, The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, 3/23/23]
  • Julie Kelly claims that January 6 prosecutions are a silencing free speech and destroying lives

    Julie Kelly claims that January 6 prosecutions are a silencing free speech and destroying lives
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    Citation From the March 23, 2023, edition of Premiere Networks' The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show

  • Tucker Carlson

  • As a Fox prime-time host, Carlson relentlessly downplayed the January 6 insurrection and promoted the conspiracy theory that Ray Epps, whom he posited was a federal agent or FBI informant, incited the riot. Carlson also repeatedly hosted Beattie and Kelly to push misinformation about the attack. 

    • 2021: Carlson put out a revisionist January 6-focused series that suggested the attack was a “false flag.” In an interview with Kelly, Carlson said the left used officer Brian Sicknick’s death “as a political weapon” and that his state funeral was “fake.” “Completely fabricated,” agreed Kelly. Carlson also hosted Beattie and cited an article in which he suggested the January 6 attack may have been orchestrated by FBI operatives. [Media Matters, 11/2/21, 11/4/21, 6/16/21, 6/17/21; Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 11/1/21]
    • 2022: Carlson defended the rioters as “passionately patriotic Americans” “who genuinely love America” and on the one-year anniversary of January 6 he downplayed the violence as “just barely” a riot. As a guest on Carlson’s show, Beattie also called January 6 “a clear hoax” planned and carried out by “the feds.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 6/8/22, 1/6/22, 6/9/22]
    • Early 2023: Carlson continued to downplay the severity of the January 6 riot, calling the rioters “nonviolent … protesters” and “patriotic Americans.” He also said January 6 was “probably second only to the 2020 election as the biggest scam in my lifetime.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 3/21/23, 3/14/23]
    • April 2023-present: After Carlson was fired in April from Fox, he appeared on a Spaces live chat on X (formerly Twitter) and continued to downplay the insurrection. [Twitter/X, 12/12/23]
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    Citation From a December 12, 2023, X Space

  • Steve Bannon

  • Since he left the Trump administration in 2017, Steve Bannon has hosted War Room — a podcast for Real America’s Voice — where he has frequently defended those involved in the insurrection. Bannon has also hosted both Beattie and Kelly to also push conspiracy theories about January 6. 

    • 2021: Leading up to the January 6 insurrection, Bannon bragged on his podcast about his role in working to undermine the results of the 2020 presidential election. [Media Matters, 10/29/21
    • 2022: Bannon defended the Proud Boys ahead of one of Congress’ January 6 hearings, referring to the organization, whose leaders have since been convicted for their role in the January 6 attack, as a “rag tag beer drinking group.” Bannon also repeatedly made false claims that U.S. Senate sergeant-at-arms Michael Stenger’s death was an intentional homicide, comparing it to older right-wing conspiracy theories around the suicide of Clinton administration official Vince Foster. [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 6/9/22; CNN, 9/1/23; Media Matters, 6/29/22]
    • 2023-present: Bannon is still hosting his podcast, War Room, where he has continued to downplay the insurrection, including dismissing Trump's role by stating that Trump was “doing his duty” to “make sure that the 2020 election had been fairly decided” and continuing to insist that the 2020 election was stolen. [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 8/2/23]
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    Citation From the August 2, 2023, edition of Real America's Voice's War Room 

  • Charlie Kirk

  • Charlie Kirk, who co-founded the right-wing organization Turning Point USA, has repeatedly downplayed the insurrection and accused Ray Epps of being a federal agent.

    • 2021: In the immediate aftermath of January 6, Kirk downplayed the attack, saying that “just because you do something that is regrettable does not mean that you are planning an armed insurrection against the United States government." [Newsweek, 1/12/21]
    • 2022: Kirk pushed the Epps conspiracy theory, posting to X that Epps “texted his nephew ‘I orchestrated it’” and claiming that he is the “only man caught on camera actively calling for people to enter the Capitol and riot.” In another post, Kirk said, “If the FBI knows who Ray Epps is, why haven't they arrested him yet?” [Twitter/X, 1/11/22, 12/30/22
    • 2023-present: Kirk continues to run Turning Point USA and has repeatedly promoted far-right talking points, including false claims about January 6. On his eponymous show, Kirk has primed his audience to prepare for “another January 6” over Trump’s various indictments and called on a future administration to “get some pardons done” for the January 6 insurrectionists. [Media Matters, 9/22/23, 11/21/23; Real America’s Voice, The Charlie Kirk Show, 1/3/24, 12/7/23, 7/28/23, 1/6/23; Twitter/X, 9/19/23]
  • CHarlie Kirk Epps tweet 1
  • The Gateway Pundit

  • The Gateway Pundit, a right-wing website that frequently pushes conspiracy theories and hoaxes, and Editor-in-Chief Jim Hoft have repeatedly claimed that the January 6 insurrection was a false flag operation organized by federal law enforcement.

    • 2021: The Gateway Pundit was reportedly a favorite source for Donald Trump in the lead-up to January 6. According to The Washington Post, “In the weeks before he left office in 2021, Trump brandished printouts of Gateway Pundit articles questioning the results of the election.” In May 2021, a few months after the insurrection, Hoft published an article claiming that someone inside the Capitol unlocked the doors for the rioters, citing an anonymous member of the Oath Keepers — a group with several members who have since been convicted for their roles on January 6. [The Washington Post, 1/3/24; The Gateway Pundit, 5/24/21; Politico, 1/23/23]
    • 2022: Hoft doubled down on the claim that “someone inside the security booth at the US Capitol opened the doors” in a Gateway Pundit article titled “WE WERE RIGHT. ” In another article, Hoft claimed that instead of investigating the Oath Keepers’ involvement in January 6, “the FBI would have better luck if they looked at their trained operatives instead who were leading the charge on the Capitol building.” [Twitter/X, 6/13/22; The Gateway Pundit, 1/29/22, 8/24/22]
    • 2023-present: Hoft and The Gateway Pundit remain a source of conspiracy theories about January 6. Hoft has penned several stories alleging that Ray Epps’ criminal charges and sentencing are proof that he was a federal agent and said President Joe Biden “will use the J6 anniversary to accuse Trump supporters of being white supremacists.” [The Gateway Pundit, 1/2/24, 9/19/23, 1/3/24
  • Laura Ingraham

  • Fox News host Laura Ingraham has used her prime-time platform to repeatedly claim that January 6 was a “false flag operation” orchestrated by “antifa” or federal agents. 

    • 2021: Ingraham suggested “antifa sympathizers” were behind the January 6 attack, citing a Washington Times article that was later debunked. [The New York Times, 3/1/21]
    • 2022: Ingraham cited Darren Beattie’s Revolver News on her show on Fox to argue that “Epps may have led the breach team that first entered the Capitol on January 6.” [Media Matters, 1/19/22]
    • 2023-present: Ingraham has used her prime-time slot on Fox News to continuously defend Trump and attack those who are involved in the legal cases against him over his alleged role in attempting to overturn the 2020 election. She has also whitewashed the Capitol insurrectionists as “old ladies walking through the halls of Congress taking selfies.” [Media Matters, 11/01/23; Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 10/10/23, 8/7/23, 3/29/23]
  • Video file

    Citation From the March 29, 2023, edition of Fox News' The Ingraham Angle

  • Infowars

  • Prolific conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars co-host Owen Shroyer were part of the crowd on January 6. Shroyer has since celebrated the insurrection while Jones has claimed that any violence that occurred was caused by antifa or federal agents.

    • 2021: Jones responded to the FBI’s investigation into his involvement in the insurrection by claiming that “we know who did it: antifa with some paramilitary groups all together, which are going to turn out to be feds with idiots they provocateured to be part of it, the Q people,” calling it “the modern Reichstag 2.0.” Shroyer stated that “we should have been proud of what happened on January 6.” [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 1/14/21, 5/17/21]
    • 2022: Jones claimed that when investigated by the January 6 committee, he pleaded the Fifth Amendment “almost 100 times.” [Texas Tribune, 4/28/22]
    • 2023-present: Jones celebrated Tucker Carlson’s revisionist history of the insurrection, claiming the footage Carlson aired showed that “January 6 was an inside job.” In the days before Shroyer was sentenced to two months in prison for leading a portion of the crowd on January 6, Jones claimed that the government was “asking for prison time for a man that did nothing and was there with me trying to stop people going to the Capitol because he still says he thinks the election was stolen.” [Media Matters, 2/28/23; Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 9/6/23; PBS, PBS NewsHour, 9/12/23
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    Citation From the February 20, 2023, edition of Infowars' The Alex Jones Show

  • Newsmax’s Greg Kelly

  • In the wake of January 6, Newsmax prime-time host Greg Kelly has repeatedly whitewashed the violence at the Capitol on his show, claiming that Trump supporters were allowed into the building or set up by federal law enforcement and unfairly prosecuted.

    • 2021: Kelly claimed that the insurrection was “a trap to make Trump supporters, the MAGA movement, look bad,” and alleged that police were “not doing anything” and had ushered insurrectionists into the Capitol. Kelly later claimed the insurrection was a “false flag operation” staged by federal law enforcement. [Newsmax, Greg Kelly Reports, 9/16/21, 11/3/21]
    • 2022: Kelly continued to claim that Capitol Police and other federal agents “stood by” and that insurrectionists were “let in” to the Capitol. He also claimed that the rioters who called for Vice President Mike Pence to be hanged were “speaking metaphorically” and downplayed the makeshift gallow that were erected nearby. [Newsmax, Greg Kelly Reports, 6/16/22]
    • 2023-present: Kelly doubled down with the claim that January 6 insurrectionists were invited into the Capitol by police, claiming that it is “actually not true” that rioters violently breached the Capitol. He has also repeatedly defended Trump’s increasingly hostile campaign rhetoric, dismissing comparisons of the former president to Adolf Hitler and saying he is “a madman, and that is a good thing.” [Newsmax, Greg Kelly Reports, 11/17/23, 11/13/23, 10/19/23]
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    Citation From the November 17, 2023, edition of Newsmax's Greg Kelly Reports