The problem with Tucker Carlson’s Jan. 6 coverage isn’t just that he misused the security camera footage he had exclusive access to, it’s also the conclusions that he drew. After years of the Fox News host peddling ridiculous rhetoric about the insurrectionist attack on the Capitol, he cherry-picked video excerpts to confirm his predetermined counternarrative.
The result was a message that’s been condemned by Democrats, Republicans and law enforcement: Most of the rioters were harmless.
“They were peaceful. They were orderly and meek,” the controversial television personality told his viewers Monday night. “These were not insurrectionists. They were sightseers.” He added that most of those who attacked the Capitol “obviously revere the Capitol.”
The reason this has drawn so many sharp rebukes is that Carlson wasn’t telling the truth. In fact, the Fox host’s story is sharply at odds with the story a prominent congressional leader told about the Jan. 6 violence the week after the attack:
“These men and women in the uniform, they got overrun. One officer got killed. ... They got broken arms. You don’t understand what was transpiring at that moment and that time. People hanging, people brought ropes. When I got back into my building, I found the straps that they had. I don’t know if they’d come to try to kidnap somebody or whatever. But they, they were well planned for it.”
That, of course, was the assessment from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, during an interview he did with KERN, a radio station in his California congressional district, on Jan. 13, 2021.
So what we’re left with is two competing visions: one fraudulent and one true. There’s the television personality who wants the public to believe Jan. 6 rioters were peaceful sightseers, and there’s the congressional leader who described the rioters as violent and dangerous.
Does McCarthy agree with Carlson’s vision or his own?
The GOP leader — who gave the Fox host exclusive access to the security footage for reasons he’s still struggling to explain — has claimed he hasn’t seen Carlson’s coverage, even as the House Republican conference he leads promotes the segments.
Eventually, however, McCarthy should take a little time and see the results of his handiwork. At that point, the House speaker will have a choice: He can tell us whether Carlson is right about what transpired on Jan. 6 or whether McCarthy was. He can’t pick both.