Mitch McConnell, other Republicans blast Fox show depicting 'very little' Jan. 6 violence
Fox host Tucker Carlson's use of newly seen Jan. 6, 2021, footage praised by Donald Trump
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and some other members of his party said Tuesday it was a mistake for Fox News to depict footage in a way that downplayed the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
On his prime-time show on Fox News on Monday, host Tucker Carlson aired a first instalment to millions of viewers, after Tucker Carlson Tonight received thousands of hours of security footage from Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
"Very little about Jan. 6 was organized or violent," said Carlson, calling those gathered "sightseers" at one point.
In the lengthy segment, Carlson often emphasized imagery of people, some in combat gear and wielding flagpoles, merely milling about in the gilded halls, taking pictures of the surroundings during pauses in the hours-long attack.
"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 in the Capitol thinks," said McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader from Kentucky.
Carlson denounced the Jan. 6 committee led by Democrats in the last Congress session, and called out Republican panel members Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger as liars. The committee concluded that former president Donald Trump was the "central cause" of the attack, firing up supporters who descended on Washington with weeks of unsubstantiated claims about electoral fraud in the November 2020 presidential election.
Carlson said those who descended on the Capitol were "right" to believe the election "had been unfairly conducted." The host didn't specify what was unfair, though he has previously criticized the expansion of mail-in voting that took place due to COVID-19.
House Speaker blasted for handing over footage
Democrats were predictably united in condemnation. Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, who led the House Jan. 6 Committee, called McCarthy's decision to selectively release the security footage "a dereliction of duty."
"The speaker decided it was more important to give in to a Fox host who spews lies and propaganda than to protect the Capitol," Thompson said in a statement. He called Jan. 6 "one of the darkest days in the history of our democracy."
Fox News has come under scrutiny in recent weeks for airing content even some of its hosts and executives privately disparaged as untrue, as a result of the discovery process in a defamation trial it faces next month from Toronto-founded voting technology company Dominion Voting Systems.
Another tranche of documents in the case was released on Tuesday, in which Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch said in his deposition that "the election was not stolen."
A number of Republicans joined McConnell in criticism of the Carlson airing.
"I thought it was an insurrection at that time, I still think it was an insurrection today," said South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds, a Republican, on Tuesday.
Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina referred to the program as "bullshit," pointing to the many police officers assaulted that day.
McCarthy, recorded with colleagues in the aftermath of the attack blaming Trump, has long since backed away from criticism of the former president in connection with the riot.
He stood by his decision to release the footage to Carlson's show, saying Tuesday that viewers can "come up with their own conclusion."
Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of North Carolina, who gained notoriety 14 years ago by accusing president Barack Obama of lying during an address to Congress, thanked Carlson on Tuesday.
"The truth has finally been revealed," Wilson said from the House floor, without specifying.
Capitol Police push back on 'disturbing' footage
Carlson aired footage of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick inside the Capitol picking up posters and politely ushering protesters out the door.
But other footage has shown Sicknick caught up in a crush of demonstrators, at one point temporarily sidelined after being pepper-sprayed. Hours later, Sicknick collapsed and he was pronounced dead on Jan. 7, 2021, having suffered a pair of strokes.
"The Department maintains, as anyone with common sense would, that had Officer Sicknick not fought valiantly for hours on the day he was violently assaulted, Officer Sicknick would not have died the next day," Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said in a memo to his police force.
Several Capitol Police officers who were defending against the mob have testified to their harrowing experiences in the many criminal cases stemming from Jan. 6, 2021.
The Carlson show's portrayal was "an insult to every single police officer," said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, especially relatives of Sicknick.
"Non-violent? Ask his family," said Schumer.
Trump, who is again a candidate for president, contended on Tuesday that Carlson's presentation was "irrefutable" evidence that rioters have been wrongly accused of crimes.
Trump again called for the release from custody of people who have been convicted or have pleaded guilty to charges from the attack. He has suggested that, if elected again, he might consider pardons for those convicted in criminal cases.
With files from The Associated Press