Some Republicans have rebuked efforts by Donald Trump and Fox News host Tucker Carlson to whitewash the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, underscoring a significant split in the party over attempts to downplay the events of the day.
Kevin McCarthy, the speaker of the House, turned over more than 40,000 hours of security footage from the Capitol to Carlson earlier this year. This week, Carlson aired selectively edited portions of that footage, falsely claiming the rioters were “sightseers” and “not insurrectionists”. At least 1,000 people have been arrested for their role in the January 6 attack. Five people died as a result of it.
More than 999 people have been arrested so far, according to the justice department. Around 518 people have pleaded guilty to federal crimes to date and 53 have been found guilty at trial.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, quickly distanced himself from Carlson’s portrayal. “It was a mistake, in my view, for Fox News to depict this in a way that’s completely at variance with what our chief law enforcement official here at the Capitol thinks,” he said on Tuesday.
Thom Tillis, a Republican senator from North Carolina, was blunter in his critique. “I think it’s bullshit,” he said earlier this week.
“I was here. I was down there, and I saw maybe a few tourists, a few people who got caught up in things,” he said. “But when you see police barricades breached, when you see police officers assaulted, all of that … if you were just a tourist you should’ve probably lined up at the visitors’ center and came in on an orderly basis.”
Mitt Romney, the junior Republican senator from Utah, told reporters that attempts to downplay the January 6 attack were “dangerous”.
“It’s a very dangerous thing to do, to suggest that attacking the Capitol of the United States is in any way acceptable and it’s anything other than a serious crime, against democracy and against our country,” he said, according to NBC. ““And people saw that it was violent and destructive and should never happen again. But trying to normalize that behavior is dangerous and disgusting.”
McCarthy has defended his decision to give Carlson the footage. “I said at the very beginning: transparency. What I wanted to produce for everyone was exactly what I said so people could look at it and see what went on that day,” he told reporters this week.
Trump, who is under investigation for his role in the January 6 attack, praised Carlson on Tuesday. “GREAT JOB BY TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT,” he wrote on Truth Social on Tuesday. “The Unselect Committee of political Hacks & Thugs has been totally discredited. They knowingly refused to show the Videos that mattered. They should be tried for Fraud and Treason, and those imprisoned and being persecuted should be exonerated and released, NOW!”
“LET THE JANUARY 6 PRISONERS GO. THEY WERE CONVICTED, OR ARE AWAITING TRIAL, BASED ON A GIANT LIE, A RADICAL LEFT CON JOB. THANK YOU TO TUCKER CARLSON AND SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE KEVIN McCARTHY FOR WHAT YOU BOTH HAVE DONE. NEW VIDEO FOOTAGE IS IRREFUTABLE!!!” Trump posted on Truth Social earlier this week.
Trump recently recorded a single for charity with some of the people in prison for the January 6 attack.
The far-right Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has long downplayed the January 6 attack. Andrew Clyde, a Georgia congressman, in 2021 compared the rioters to tourists at the Capitol.
But Dan Crenshaw, another conservative Republican congressman from Texas, said that continuing to downplay the attack would just be embarrassing to the party.
“It’s definitely stupid to keep talking about this … So what is the purpose of continuing to bring it up unless you’re trying to feed Democrat narratives even further?” he told Politico.
“I don’t really have a problem with making it all public. But if your message is then to try and convince people that nothing bad happened, then it’s just gonna make us look silly.”
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