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Anti-government extremists champion Tucker Carlson's 1/6 conspiracy theory: “These are the things we've been saying”

After Fox News host Tucker Carlson pushed the conspiracy theory that the FBI was involved in instigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection, anti-government extremists connected to previous standoffs with the government appear to be using Carlson’s comments to validate their long-standing conspiracy theory that the FBI, not armed militias, was responsible for the Bundy ranch and Malheur National Wildlife Refuge standoffs, instigating others to commit crimes. 

  • Carlson pushes January 6 conspiracy theory

  • On the June 15 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson pushed the conspiracy theory that “in potentially every single case,” those listed as unindicted co-conspirators in January 6 charging documents “were FBI operatives.” The ridiculous claim has been widely debunked, and it’s been highlighted that the conspiracy theory relies on flimsy logic that the term “unindicted co-conspirator” is synonymous with FBI operative (it’s not). On his June 16 broadcast, Carlson doubled down on his baseless narrative, saying events of January 6 were “at least in part organized and carried out in secret by people connected to federal law enforcement.” 

    In the immediate aftermath of the attack on the Capitol, some anti-government extremism experts drew comparisons of the riot to the armed standoffs between extremist groups and the federal government near Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada in 2014 and at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016, calling those events precursors to and “dress rehearsals” for the January 6 insurrection.

  • Participants of standoffs at the Bundy ranch and Malheur National Wildlife Refuge run with Carlson’s conspiracy theory to validate their conspiratorial beliefs

  • Bundy standoff participant Todd Engel: Carlson’s FBI conspiracy theory is “exactly what occurred in my case.”
    Responding to Carlson’s FBI conspiracy theory, a user claiming to be Todd Engel tweeted that it was “exactly what occurred in my case” and added a hashtag, “#FBIcriminalsyndicate.” In another tweet, he wrote, “The FBI is nothing less than a criminal syndicate perpetrating and instigating crimes from sea to shining sea.” Engel was convicted in 2017 for his role in the Bundy standoff and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

    Engel tweet

    The account’s Twitter bio brags that he was “convicted in Obama’s kangaroo court” and served four and a half years “in Fed Prison as innocent man.” Engel's conviction was vacated and a new trial was ordered in August 2020 after the court found he was improperly denied the right to represent himself at trial.

    Engel has long accused the FBI and other federal agencies of setting up the Bundy ranch defendants by having FBI informants “instigate” and “nudge [them] into crimes.” On Facebook this year, Engel posted that “five years ago today over a dozen of us were literally abducted by the federal government” on “trumped up charges.” 

  • Bundy standoff and Malheur refuge occupation participant Pete Santilli 
    Weeks before Carlson’s on-air June 15 commentary, an account seemingly belonging to Pete Santilli had tweeted that the riot was “another @FBI false flag.” He also tweeted, “We now have whistleblowers who are coming forward about your pre-Jan 6th false flag operation. How many Jan 6th provocateurs were on the @FBI payroll?” 

    Santilli, an online talk show host, was involved in both the Bundy ranch and Malheur National Wildlife Refuge standoffs and was accused of using his show to recruit militia members for the Bundy standoff, though Santilli claimed to merely be a journalist covering the confrontations. Charges against Santilli for his role in the Malheur case were ultimately dismissed and he was sentenced to time served after pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge related to the Bundy standoff and spent a total of 14 months in custody.

    A day after Carlson pushed his conspiracy theory, Santilli played a portion of Carlson’s interview with Revolver News’ Darren Beattie accusing the FBI of instigating the January 6 insurrection via informants in a June 16 livestream on Twitch (which is no longer available). Building off the interview, Santilli and his co-host drew comparisons between the Bundy and Malheur standoffs and January 6, suggesting FBI infiltrators instigated these events. Santilli's longtime co-host Deb Jordan warned listeners not to “let somebody infiltrate you right now and do to you what they did at the Capitol and what they did all over the country during the Bundy ranch trials,” to which Santilli replied, “That’s right.” Santilli and Jordan also said if someone suggests “you need to do something unlawful, … that’s a federal agent.” In a separate Twitch stream, Santilli said that “we’re going to abolish the FBI” because “they’re nothing less than a Nazi Gestapo.”  

  • Idaho Three Percenter leader Eric Parker: “These are the things we’ve been saying for years.”
    A day after Carlson pushed the FBI’s involvement in the January 6 attack, an account seemingly belonging to Eric Parker tweeted, “These are the things we’ve been saying for years.” Parker became known as the “Bundy ranch sniper” following a viral photo showing him aiming a rifle at federal agents during the 2014 standoff at the Bundy ranch in Nevada. In another tweet, he tagged “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec in a threaded tweet and said “there’s a lot of similarities” between the January 6 riot and the Bundy and the Malheur standoffs. The account’s Twitter bio brags that Parker was “indicted by the Obama administration’s weaponized DOJ” on “multiple felonies” and “held 19 months.” (Parker was ultimately acquitted on several felony charges, and he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor obstruction.)

    Parker FBI

    Parker is also the leader of the Real Idaho Three Percenters, the Idaho faction of the anti-government militia movement formed around the debunked narrative that only 3% of American colonists fought the British in the Revolutionary War. In Idaho, the group has rallied against refugee resettlements, patrolled Black Lives Matter protests with other armed groups, and answered Cliven Bundy’s son Ammon Bundy’s call for support at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation.

  • Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupier Jason Patrick: If Carlson “really wanted to learn the truth about the shady dealings and actions of the FBI” he should speak with the Finicum family.
    In a June 22 tweet, an account seemingly belonging to Jason Patrick said that if Carlson wants to learn the “truth about the shady dealings and actions of the FBI,” he should contact the family of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, who was shot and killed by FBI agents after he left the Malheur wildlife refuge, fled from a police traffic stop, and reached for a gun after his vehicle crashed into a snowbank. A user claiming to be Idaho Three Percenter Eric Parker retweeted the suggestion for Carlson to look into Finicum’s death. Finicum became a martyr for anti-government extremism nationwide, similar to Ashli Babbitt, the woman killed on January 6 as “she was breaking into a sensitive area of the Capitol.” Patrick himself was convicted of felony conspiracy charges and sentenced to 21 months in prison for his role in the Malheur occupation. 

    Patrick FBI 3

    On June 26, the account also tweeted that Carlson should speak to Morgan Philpot about “FBI malfeasance leading up to Jan 6th.” Philpot represented Ammon Bundy, who led the armed takeover of the Malheur wildlife refuge, in cases involving the Malheur occupation and the Bundy standoff.

    Patrick FBI 2