Tom Joscelyn, a former senior staffer on the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, penned an op-ed in Politico Magazine published today that outlined how Fox News host Tucker Carlson manipulated security footage from that day to mislead his audience about the realities of the insurrection.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) gave Carlson exclusive access to 40,000 hours of video footage of the attack, and the host has spent a lot of airtime this week attempting to discredit the January 6 committee findings on the deadly riot and pushing an alternative reality where the insurrection was “mostly peaceful chaos.”
“Tucker Carlson tried to rewrite the history of Jan. 6, 2021, and utterly failed,” Joscelyn wrote. “Carlson promised viewers that his reveal of this massive tranche of video would dramatically alter our collective understanding of the events. It did not.”
Here is a breakdown of how Carlson attempted to reenvision the January 6 insurrection for his susceptible audience, according to Joscelyn:
Carlson’s story relies on the right-wing narrative that crucial footage of rioters acting peacefully on January 6 has been purposefully hidden in order to make Trump supporters appear especially violent. Joscelyn, however, says that Carlson’s premise “was always false,” and that the select committee worked with footage from multiple sources to conclude that January 6 was a violent insurrection:
First, the premise of his “investigation,” that the USCP footage was being withheld to cover up the full story, was always false. Working with the Select Committee’s members, the investigative team and staffers reviewed the USCP’s recordings, which provided new angles at some key locations.
In addition to the USCP’s surveillance video, the Select Committee reviewed footage recorded by cameras worn by Metropolitan Police Department officers, the work of documentary filmmakers and countless open-source videos, including clips recorded by the rioters themselves.
Carlson, in showing “cherry-picked” scenes of rioters walking aimlessly around the Capitol, ignored well-known footage of violent behavior. As Joscelyn explains:
On Monday night, the Fox News host showed just several minutes of cherry-picked footage. Cameras inside the Capitol and on its grounds recorded many more scenes that he did not play for viewers. Some of this footage has long been available online. For example, you can watch rioters ramming their way through USCP officers at the Senate Wing door, members of the mob smashing the ornate East Rotunda doors before other rioters open them from the inside, and the melee at the west plaza tunnel (at the two-hour, 14-minute mark). You can also view a timeline of events used by federal prosecutors, who relied on the USCP’s camera footage. Carlson’s team had access to this footage, and more, but chose not to show any of it to Fox News viewers Monday night. It’s easy to see why. The full USCP cache tells a very different story from the one Carlson wants people to see.
Carlson also falsely claimed that it is still unclear how Jacob Chansley, the “QAnon Shaman,” entered the Capitol, while, as Joscelyn notes, the footage shown by Carlson himself shows exactly how he did it.
During his presentation Monday night, Carlson focused on Jacob Chansley, a.k.a. the QAnon Shaman, pretending that he is the central figure in the January 6th story. Carlson claimed that we still don’t know how he entered the building. That’s not true — even the footage shown by Carlson makes it clear that Chansley entered through the Senate Wing door next to the window Pezzola bashed in.
Joscelyn also focuses on Carlson historically glossing over the massive role that the Proud Boys had in orchestrating and inciting violence on that day:
There is another fundamental problem with Carlson’s presentation that may not be so easy for the casual viewer to spot. He has repeatedly whitewashed the key role played by far-right extremists, namely, the Proud Boys. Their story, including how then-President Donald Trump inspired them, is told in Chapters 6 and 8 of the January 6th Select Committee’s final report. The Proud Boys and other extremists led the mob, but Carlson refuses to let his viewers know it.
Joscelyn makes clear that despite searching for a government-funded “bogeyman” to blame for starting the riot, Carlson “still cannot identify any federal agents working for the so-called ‘deep state’” and has focused this attention on Ray Epps, a Trump supporter that right-wing media has scapegoated into being responsible for January 6.
Let us compare one of Carlson’s conspiracy theories to the well-established facts. For more than two years, Carlson has chased a bogeyman, arguing that provocateurs working for the federal government (or, alternatively, agitators on the left) somehow tricked Trump’s “patriots” into rioting. He still cannot identify any federal agents working for the so-called “deep state.” Carlson and others have focused on a lone individual who has not been charged, Ray Epps, insinuating that he was a secret FBI plant. This claim is baseless. They’ve produced no evidence connecting Epps, a Trump supporter, to the FBI or any other federal agency.
Carlson’s coverage appears to be reverberating through the right-wing media landscape, with right-wing and far-right figures, including former President Donald Trump, using Carlson’s revisionist coverage to suggest that the January 6 committee lied to the public and the deadly riot was not an insurrection. Meanwhile, it's generated bipartisan backlash, prompting Carlson to run to Glenn Beck's radio program for a safe space to attack Republicans.