And they’re stumbling out of the starting blocks.
As I see it, the first stage occurred under then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who handed thousands of hours of Jan. 6 security footage to then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson. That effort failed to stir the pro-insurrectionist sympathy that the GOP seems to be after.
Republicans took another stab at it over the weekend, with Johnson announcing Friday that he will publicly release more than 40,000 hours of Jan. 6 footage. Two Republicans — Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah — then took to social media to push false claims that one of the rioters was an FBI agent in disguise.
Lee reshared a post on X from a convicted Jan. 6 rioter, who was spreading a debunked conspiracy theory that another rioter had been seen flashing an FBI badge at the Capitol. The post included a screen grab of surveillance footage.
Greene shared the screen grab, too — and took the performative outrage even further, calling on the new House speaker to create another Jan. 6 committee and saying that criminal prosecutions “MUST happen under a Trump DOJ.”
“That’s a law enforcement badge in his hand while disguised as a Trump supporter in a MAGA hat,” Greene falsely claimed in her original post before editing it. “I’ve said it all along, MAGA did not do this.”
But Greene soon removed the screen grab from her post and deleted the sentence about the badge.
Netizens noted that the rioter in question, Kevin Lyons, appears to have been carrying a vaping device, not a badge. My colleague Ryan Reilly — who literally wrote the book on internet sleuths who’ve helped identify Jan. 6 participants — explained the failed conspiracy push in an article for NBC News.
So this wasn’t some government plant. He was a self-identified numbskull who rode a wave of MAGA fury to prison.
I think Jan. 6 revisionism is an incredibly stupid hill for Republicans to die on. I don’t think that most Americans can be deluded into thinking that the day was actually less violent than it appeared.
But all of this shows just how difficult this effort will be — tactically, not just rhetorically — for Republicans. They need the web to spread their Jan. 6 conspiracy theories. But that’s also where there’s an army of internet sleuths — who are well-versed on the topic, ready and willing to beat back absurd claims at every turn.