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Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s segments this week seeking to reframe the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S Capitol are drawing pushback unlike anything in recent memory for a cable news host.
On his primetime program Monday and Tuesday, Carlson downplayed what happened on Jan. 6 using a trove of footage provided by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
“The footage does not show an insurrection or a riot in progress” at the Capitol, Carlson said, adding that while some people may have damaged some property, the vast majority were “sightseers.”
On Wednesday, White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates told The Hollywood Reporter, “We agree with the chief of the Capitol Police and the wide range of bipartisan lawmakers who have condemned this false depiction of the unprecedented, violent attack on our Constitution and the rule of law — which cost police officers their lives.
“We also agree with what Fox News’s own attorneys and executives have now repeatedly stressed in multiple courts of law: that Tucker Carlson is not credible,” he added.
It was a rare shaming by name by the White House of a cable news antagonist, a common occurrence during the Trump administration, but not at all under Biden.
And as Bates noted, the White House was not alone in its condemnation.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a primetime cable-news anchor manipulate his viewers the way Mr. Carlson did last night,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Tuesday. On Wednesday, he added in a statement that “Speaker McCarthy has held the gavel for less than three months. But by sharing the January 6th security footage with Fox News, he has already done more than any party leader in Congress to enable the spread of Donald Trump’s Big Lie.”
And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters Tuesday that 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.”
McConnell was joined by other Republican senators including Lindsey Graham and John Kennedy, who shared similar opinions.
“I was there, it was violent. I thought it then to be an insurrection, I still think it was an attempted insurrection,” added Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD).
The comments made by McConnell were covered on Fox News by anchor Bret Baier and correspondent Chad Pergram. “And to be clear, no one here at Fox News condones any of the violence that happened on Jan. 6,” Baier said.
Pergram, who was in the Capitol on Jan. 6, told The Hollywood Reporter last year that he and his team had “barricaded the doors” in the room where they were working to stay safe.
“This isn’t some office park somewhere in the suburbs. That is amazing to me, astonishing to me, scary to me,” Pergram said. “I’ve seen a lot of crazy days at the Capitol, I’ve worked a lot of crazy days in the news business, and I have never seen anything like it, and I probably never will, and I hope I never do.”
The segments also became fodder across the TV ecosystem, with late night hosts and even other journalists mocking them.
“They desperately needed someone, anyone, to create propaganda to make it seem like it was no big deal so they can stay in office and maybe do a better coup next time,” Stephen Colbert said on CBS’ Late Show.
“The idea of Tucker Carlson being in that mob that day and not wetting his pants is hard to imagine,” CNN anchor Anderson Cooper said on his show Tuesday. “I find it hard to understand somebody who has never put himself in harm’s way in any capacity for anyone else or on reporting a story and yet has the audacity to try to rewrite history. I mean, that’s what this is.”
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