Almost immediately after the deadly insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol two months ago, Republicans started pushing the line that the pro-Trump mob only appeared to be a pro-Trump mob. Assorted right-wing lawmakers and media personalities insisted there were "antifa" activists "masquerading as Trump supporters," and they were responsible for the violence at the Capitol.
Federal investigators said there simply isn't any evidence to support the claim. Independent news outlets came to the same conclusion: the Washington Post looked for antifa members joining the riot and also concluded that the claims were wrong.
This morning, FBI Director Chris Wray, appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, offered his first public testimony since September, added his voice to the debunking.
Wray did contradict a myth that has arisen in some right-wing circles by saying that FBI agents "have not to date seen any evidence of anarchist violent extremists or people subscribing to Antifa in connection with the 6th."
This came up early on in the hearing, with the Trump-appointed FBI director telling Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) that the bureau has not seen any evidence of "fake Trump supporters" organizing the deadly riot.
But it came up more than once, with Wray fielding a series of questions on the matter, repeatedly explaining to senators in his sworn testimony that the evidence simply doesn't support the Republican theories.
One can only hope that Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who read a post from a right-wing blog during a committee hearing last week, claiming that "fake Trump protesters" were behind the assault on the Capitol, heard the FBI director's testimony.
I'm sure he'll be issuing a public apology for peddling conspiratorial nonsense any minute now.
Of course, it's not just Johnson. Much of the Republican Party has embraced the theory, desperate to shift responsibility for the insurrectionist attack -- which Wray explicitly referred to this morning as "domestic terrorism" -- away from violent Trump followers.
Indeed, circling back to our earlier coverage, the party's base has gotten the message: a recent national Suffolk University/USA Today poll found that 58% of Trump voters believe the Jan. 6 violence was "mostly an antifa-inspired attack that only involved a few Trump supporters."
In other words, most of the former president's supporters have simply decided to believe, facts be damned, that pro-Trump forces didn't attack the Capitol. In these voters' alternate reality, it was really a loose alliance of anti-fascist groups pretending to be right-wing activists, as part of an elaborate ruse.
Will they take note of the assessment from Trump's handpicked FBI director? Or is it more likely they'll assume Wray is part of some weird conspiracy?