After the committee’s final summer hearing on Jan. 6 last week, the conversation on the sets of CNN and MSNBC turned into an intriguing, albeit familiar, possibility about what might be the outcome of the panel’s finding. The case for a criminal charge against former President Donald J. Trump, many experts said, was not only justified, but seemed more than likely given the evidence of his inaction as rioters ransacked the Capitol.
If that felt like déjà vu — more predictions of Mr Trump’s impending demise — the response to the hearings of the pro-Trump platforms felt like something new, a reflection of the effort his Praetorian Guard of friendly media has made to rewrite the violent history of that day.
Even as the committee’s vivid portrayal of Trump’s failure to intervene prompted two influential media outlets on the right, The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal, to denounce him this weekend, many top conservative media personalities are continued to push for a more sanitized story of January 6, 2021. They have turned the Capitol police into rogues, claiming that there was a government plot to criminalize political dissent.
Mark Levin, the talk show host, scoffed at the idea that Mr Trump had tried to overthrow the election or spark an insurrection. Had he done so, Mr. Levin explained during an appearance on Fox News while other networks broadcast the hearings live, the former president would have taken more immediate steps, such as ordering the arrest of Vice President Mike Pence or the Attorney General. fire.
“With all the talk about crime, you’d think they’d show us,” Mr. Levin told Fox News on Thursday night. “There’s nothing,” he added. “Absolutely zero evidence that Donald Trump was involved in an attempt to forcibly overthrow our election or our government. Literally nothing.”
And to say exactly what he meant, Mr. Levin read from a section of the 14th Amendment that says anyone who has “engaged in insurgency or rebellion” may not hold federal office.
That was why the media continued to call January 6 “an uprising,” Mr Levin explained.
(The author of this article is an MSNBC contributor.)
In fact, part of the message from the right to Trump supporters is: You may have initially shied away from what you thought was happening in the Capitol, but you were misled by the mainstream media.
“What’s weird is that when I talk to these people, their distaste for the media on Jan. 6 is stronger now than it was a year ago,” said Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman and talk radio host who left the party because of his failure. continued support for Mr Trump. By the time the commission presented its evidence, Mr Walsh added, “half the country didn’t care or thought it was a hoax.”
The dissonance can be confusing. The same Fox News hosts who begged the president’s chief of staff to intervene with the president or risked “destroying his legacy,” as Laura Ingraham put it in a text message to Mark Meadows on Jan. 6, are now blaming the mainstream media. from exaggerating the events at the Capitol.
Key Revelations from the January 6 Hearings
The story is often based on kernels of truth about incomplete or inconsistent statements from law enforcement and witnesses — a typical occurrence in any investigation so extensive — that Mr. Trump’s allies in the media then magnify.
One of the most influential right-wing journalists to support Mr. Trump since Jan. 6 is Julie Kelly, a writer for the website American Greatness, whose articles have informed coverage in larger conservative media outlets such as Fox News. For over a year, Mrs. Kelly expressed doubts about the seriousness of the attack and the deaths of the police officers who were downplayed at the scene that day.
An early report from the Capitol Police on Jan. 6 stated that Brian Sicknick, an officer, died after collapsing from injuries sustained “while physically engaged” with pro-Trump rioters. An autopsy later revealed he had died of natural causes after suffering multiple strokes hours after the attack.
Ms. Kelly and others took advantage of the findings, often without acknowledging that the officer had been attacked and sprayed with an unknown chemical irritant by rioters, or considering the possibility that the trauma he sustained played a part in his condition , what the coroner noted that. “Sicknick didn’t die as a result of something that happened on January 6,” she stated in April in a piece under the headline “Defund the Capitol Police.” “But that doesn’t stop the Capitol Police from continuing to spread the lie that Trump supporters are responsible for his death,” Ms Kelly added.
In an email, Ms Kelly defended her article, saying, “While I continue to report, there is no medical evidence linking the events of January 6 to Agent Sicknick’s stroke.”
Another way conservative media personalities have turned against the Capitol police is by claiming that the idea of people violating the Capitol by force is some kind of hoax.
The Jan. 6 commission has shown numerous videos of rioters breaking in. One has captured a member of the Proud Boys, Dominic Pezzola, for using a police shield to break through a window, allowing dozens of rioters to storm the building.
On Tucker Carlson’s Friday program on Fox News, he mocked the testimony of an anonymous former White House security official who said Secret Service agents had called their families to say goodbye in case they were killed. Then played Mr. Carlson released a video of Capitol Police officers, who were vastly outnumbered, watching passively as rioters pour through barricades.
“We can’t know why the police are letting people into the Capitol complex on video footage,” he said, calling the hearings a “show trial” and saying he was proud of his network for not broadcasting them in prime time.
As Capitol cops are portrayed as anything less than heroic, new heroes are emerging. A story that went viral on the right in the past week was about a 69-year-old woman, Pam Hemphill, who was recently sentenced to 60 days in prison after pleading guilty to entering the Capitol on Jan. 6. Portrayed on the Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, which replaced Rush Limbaugh’s program in many markets, Hemphill was typical of the sympathetic reports conservatives heard about her. The hosts described her as a victim – a grandmother and a cancer patient who received an unreasonably harsh sentence.
“Think of months of BLM protests across this country,” said Clay Travis, referring to the Black Lives Matter movement. “How many of those real rioters are in jail for 60 days for what they caused? This is absolutely indefensible.”
Even the commission’s biggest revelations have been watered down in the right-wing media. When Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, described Mr Trump’s violent response after Secret Service agents refused to escort him to the Capitol, some right-wing commentators urged the former president’s fans to be happy. are told he was furious about not being able to go.
Breitbart News Daily host Alex Marlow told his listeners that many Trump supporters loved the idea of their president fighting to join them in the Capitol, as he said he would.
In an email, Mr. Marlow said he thought many conservatives in his audience saw the hearings as they went through the impeachment proceedings and the investigation conducted by Robert S. Mueller III into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. again the victim of a drive-by smear campaign by the political and media institutions,” he said, describing the views of his listeners.
Part of the effectiveness of the conservative media’s defense of the former president’s behavior on Jan. 6 was its uniformity. Few have broken ranks to question his actions when the commission argued its case. However, some are beginning to show interest in other potential Trump rivals, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Ms. Ingraham broadcast her show on location Friday from Florida, where she interviewed the governor.
But the torrid allegations made by the Post and Mr. Trump’s Journal over the weekend suggest deeper fissures may be beginning to emerge.
Both publications, which, like Fox News, are part of Rupert Murdoch’s conservative media empire, ran editorials questioning Mr Trump’s character. The Journal described the latest revelations about his inaction as “horrific.”
The Post went on to call his behavior on Jan. 6 his “eternal disgrace” and stated, “Trump has proved he is not worthy of being the chief executive of this country again.”