Right-Wing Media Distort Newly Released January 6 Footage To Downplay Violence

Jan. 6

January 6 rioters

Following the release of January 6 insurrection footage at the Capitol by new House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), right-wing media claimed that police welcomed rioters in the Capitol, that the footage "blows open the preferred January 6 narrative,” and “the J6 Committee’s violent insurrection narrative has crumbled.” In fact, police allowed some movement in the Capitol because they were outnumbered and trying to de-escalate the situation, and 140 Capitol Police officers were injured during the violence.

Police suffered injuries at the hands of the rioters and allowed some movement in an attempt to de-escalate

  • The police union has said 140 police officers suffered injuries from January 6. [The Washington Post, 1/27/21]
  • Police battled to keep rioters out of the Capitol but in some cases stood by because they were outnumbered or engaged politely to try to de-escalate. CNN reported:

The claim that the rioters were invited into the Capitol is false. ... There were hours-long battles between police and rioters near some entrances. CNN obtained footage from police body-worn cameras showing how dozens of officers engaged in hand-to-hand combat with rioters in a desperate effort to keep them out of the building. There are plenty of instances where rioters waltzed into the Capitol without a fight, but only after they had stormed past barricades and, in some cases, even stepped through broken windows. In some areas, police were so outnumbered by the mob that they retreated, stood aside or tried to politely engage with rioters to de-escalate the situation rather than fighting or making arrests, but that is clearly not the same as welcoming rioters into the building. [CNN, 1/4/22]

  • Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger stated that Capitol Police “did their best to use de-escalation tactics to try to talk rioters into getting each other to leave the building.” In a memo to staff, Manger disputed “outrageous and false” claims that Capitol Police served as “tour guides” for Jacob Chansley, aka the QAnon Shaman. Manger wrote that “Capitol Police were badly outnumbered on Jan. 6” and that “those officers did their best to use de-escalation tactics to try to talk rioters into getting each other to leave the building.” [The Washington Post, 3/7/23]
  • Capitol Police officers testified to the January 6 Committee that the day was “nothing short of brutal,” that there was “carnage” and it was a “war scene.” The committee also aired body camera footage from the officers that showed rioters shoving officers and pushing down barricades outside the Capitol. [NPR, 7/27/21, 6/23/21, The Associated Press, 6/10/22]
  • Police onsite were massively outnumbered by rioters, with an estimated 2,000 people entering the Capitol building and under 200 officers at the Capitol building itself. [Forbes, 12/16/21, ABC7, 1/6/22]

Right-wing media claim police allowed protestors to enter the Capitol and suggest that means it wasn’t a violent insurrection

  • Newsmax host Greg Kelly stated that it is “actually not true” that rioters broke into the Capitol and instead “some people were invited inside, and the police officers seemed to welcome them there.” While showing footage of protestors entering, Kelly also asserted that “this blows open the preferred January 6 narrative.” [Newsmax, Greg Kelly Reports, 11/17/23]
  • Newsmax host Eric Bolling said the footage shows Capitol police “escorting the protestors.” He asked his guest Rudy Giuliani, “I mean, does that look like an overthrow of the United States government to you, sir?” [Newsmax, Eric Bolling The Balance, 11/17/23]
  • Also on Newsmax, host Rob Schmitt claimed that protesters in the Capitol looked like they were taking “a tour,” adding that the “QAnon Shaman was actually escorted into the Capitol by police.” Schmitt acknowledged that there was some violence but nevertheless told his audience, “This is a much different day than it was portrayed by the media and by your members of Congress” and called the footage “an important reminder to always, always question what you are told by your government.” In fact, as The Associated Press reported in March, court documents and video footage from the attack show that the QAnon Shaman “entered the Capitol without permission, was repeatedly asked to leave the building and was not accompanied at all times.” [Newsmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight, 11/17/23; The Associated Press, 3/7/23]
  • Conservative podcast host Kyle Becker called the footage “bizarre” for showing rioters “casually walking the halls.” He posted, “This newly released J6 video is BIZARRE. All of these dangerous ‘insurrectionists’ casually walking the halls... right next to Capitol Police and FBI agents in full riot gear. WHAT is going on here? 👀” [Twitter/X, 11/18/23]
  • Right-wing personality Liz Wheeler claimed that Capitol police were “directing the insurrectionists” with a “handshake & pat on the back.” She posted, “Capitol police directing the insurrectionists who to insurrection with a handshake & pat on the back. Mark my words, the key to alllll of this lies with Nancy Pelosi.” [Twitter/X, 11/17/23]
  • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk asserted that “the J6 Committee’s violent insurrection narrative has crumbled” and called for the immediate release of rioters. He posted, “And just like that the J6 Committee’s violent insurrection narrative has crumbled. The Capitol Police facilitated the protesters passage through the building. The vast majority of J6ers should be immediately released.” [Twitter/X, 11/17/23]
  • Conservative commentator Benny Johnson noted police “were giving handshakes to protestors” and determined that “this is not an insurrection.” He posted, “Capitol Police were giving handshakes to protesters. Now ask yourselves this; In which ‘insurrection’ or ‘Rebellion’ in history would this have happened in? None — because this is not an ‘insurrection.’” [Twitter/X, 11/17/23]
  • Conservative commentator Rogan O'Handley, also known as DC Draino, posted, “Wow what an ‘insurrection’! Watch as J6ers slowly walk past Capitol Police who just watch. Democrats said this was worse than 9/11.” [X, 11/17/23]
  • Right-wing conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer dismissed concerns of right-wing violence at the Capitol because Capitol police were “fist-bumping” rioters. She said: “Oh, if these cops are so concerned, and this was really worse than 9/11 and Pearl Harbor combined, and, you know, it's like a modern day Nazi rally in our nation's capital, why is it that the Capitol Police are fist-bumping these people?” [Rumble, Loomer Unleashed, 11/17/23]

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

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