Tucker Carlson released several segments based on 41,000 hours of footage.
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In tomorrow's subscribers-only Friday edition, I'm going to be clearing a backlog of reader questions and responding to some feedback in a "reader mailbag" edition. Even though I answer a reader question in (almost) every newsletter, there are always a number of questions I want to get to that I haven't been able to yet. Also, I try to keep the reader questions in the newsletter related to politics, while many of the questions I get are personal or unrelated to the news — and more appropriate for a reader mailbag. Want to have a question answered in the newsletter? You can fill out this form.
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 81, was hospitalized after tripping and falling at a GOP event on Wednesday. McConnell had polio as a child and has talked about some of the physical challenges he has faced since his recovery. (The fall)
- President Biden is going to announce his 2024 budget today, and is expected to pressure Republicans to cap the price of insulin while also proposing a major tax hike on wealthy Americans. (The budget)
- U.S. intelligence agencies say they have concluded that Russia conducted "malign influence operations" during the 2022 U.S. midterm elections. (The claims)
- The Justice Department announced a probe into the Memphis police department following the death of Tyre Nichols (The review). Separately, a two year investigation found Louisville, Kentucky’s police had engaged in systemic discriminatory actions in the lead up to the death of Breonna Taylor. (The findings)
- The National Transportation Safety Board announced an investigation into Norfolk Southern Railway's safety culture. Norfolk Southern has had five major accidents since December, including the derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. (The investigation)
The new January 6 footage. On Monday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson aired his first segment on January 6 after receiving some 41,000 hours of security footage from the Capitol. The footage was given to Carlson by new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who promised to hand the footage over as part of his campaign for Speaker.
In the full 30-minute segment, Carlson highlighted images of people inside the Capitol building who were walking the halls peacefully, taking photographs, and at times being escorted by Capitol police. In particular, Carlson focused on Jacob Chansley, also known as the "QAnon Shaman," who became famous for wearing a horned hat and roaming the hallways shirtless during the riots. Chansley pleaded guilty to a felony charge of obstructing an official proceeding and was sentenced to 41 months in prison.
However, Carlson aired footage showing Chansley flanked by Capitol Police, who were calmly moving through the building with him and at times even appearing to open doors for him as he traversed the Capitol. At one point, Chansley even prays for the Capitol Police officers. While Carlson did air some footage of the hand-to-hand fighting, rioting, and mobs inside the building, he emphasized that those were only the images many in the media and Congress wanted you to see. Instead, he focused on airing footage of people who did not appear to be violent or destructive.
“They were peaceful, orderly and meek. They were not insurrectionists. They were sightseers,” Carlson said.
Carlson also contends the footage proves Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died the next day, was not killed by demonstrators, and that Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt was "murdered" by police.
The crimes committed and charged on January 6 at the capitol run the gamut. Around 1,000 people involved in the Capitol riot have been charged with federal crimes. More than half have pleaded guilty to federal crimes, and 133 have pleaded guilty to felonies. Members of some extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are facing sedition charges, and several members of the Oath Keepers have already been found guilty. Hundreds of others have been charged with simple misdemeanors and have not served any prison time.
There was some bipartisan outrage after Carlson's segment aired. Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said the show was filled with "offensive and misleading conclusions" about January 6.
“The program conveniently cherry-picked from the calmer moments of our 41,000 hours of video. The commentary fails to provide context about the chaos and violence that happened before or during these less tense moments,” he wrote in a memo to lawmakers.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) held up those remarks at a press conference, saying he wanted to associate himself with Manger.
“It was a mistake, in my view, for Fox News to depict this in a way that’s completely at variance with what our chief law enforcement official here at the Capitol thinks”, McConnell said.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) said the segment was "bullshit." Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) said, “To somehow put that in the same category as a permitted peaceful protest is just a lie.” Congressional Democrats were united in their outrage.
Other Republicans were more supportive. On Twitter, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) asked when judges will be "applying justice equally" and said the footage doesn't look like "thousands of armed insurrectionists" to me. Rep. Mike Collins (R-GA) called for the release of all "J6 political prisoners."
McCarthy, for his part, defended the decision to give Carlson the footage, telling reporters he had no regrets about handing it over and did it as a matter of "transparency.” He repeatedly refused to answer questions about how the segment characterized the day.
"Each person can come up with their own conclusion," McCarthy said.
During his segment, Carlson told viewers that he had allowed the Capitol police to review the footage they were airing as part of the editorial process, to ensure none of it was endangering any members of Congress or police. But after the segment aired, a Capitol Police spokesperson said that didn't happen, and that they were only allowed to review a single clip.
No other news outlets have been given access to the footage.
This is the second time in a matter of weeks Carlson has been the subject of front page news. In late February, a court filing revealed private text messages from Carlson in which he harshly criticizes Trump and mocks his legal team’s allegations of election fraud.
Today, we are going to take a look at some reactions to the new footage from the left and right, then my take.
What the left is saying.
- Many on the left criticize Carlson for continuing to lie to his viewers, and say his portrayal of the day's events is a partisan whitewash.
- Some call out Carlson's critical comments behind closed doors, and claim he is simply pandering to keep viewers.
- Others describe their own very different firsthand experiences on January 6.
In CNN, former Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department officer Michael Fanone said Tucker's spin on January is "a lie — I should know. I was there."
Correction: A previous edition of this article erroneously referenced Fanone as a Capitol Police officer.
"Fox News conspiracy theorist Tucker Carlson began airing footage this week of the January 6th insurrection, which House Speaker Kevin McCarthy gifted to him exclusively. And just as I anticipated, the footage was manipulated and selectively edited to fit an extreme MAGA narrative espoused by Carlson, former President Donald Trump and the leaders of the new Republican House majority," Fanone said. "Even his own legal team has acknowledged that Carlson doesn’t recite 'actual facts' on the topics he discusses on air. And now we have yet another indication that Carlson himself doesn’t believe what he talks about on air. Legal filings made public on Tuesday as part of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, expose Carlson as a fraud.
"I didn’t need to read the reports of his texts to know that Carlson’s spin about January 6 is fabricated," Fanone wrote. "I was there. I saw it. I lived it. I fought alongside my brother and sister officers to defend the Capitol. We have the scars and injuries to prove it. But as much as I feel anger and disgust about Tucker, I reserve equal disdain for McCarthy. His decision to hand over footage of restricted areas of the Capitol to a partisan actor who has routinely and gleefully spread misinformation about the attack endangers everyone working in the building. But it is not out of character: It is a damning reflection of just how extreme — or how opportunistic — the House speaker truly is... If McCarthy were truly interested in transparency, his course of action would be simple: Release all the footage to all news outlets or continue the critical work of the January 6th committee."
In Vox, Andrew Prokop called out the "desperate pandering" of Carlson.
"'We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait.' 'I hate him passionately.' 'We’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest. But come on. There isn’t really an upside to Trump.' Tucker Carlson sent all those texts — newly revealed as exhibits in the lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox — on January 4, 2021... Yet Carlson devoted his shows this week to a revisionist history of the attacks on the Capitol two days afterward, omitting Trump’s then-ongoing attempt to steal the election, portraying concerns about a stolen election as reasonable and even vindicated, and minimizing the violence that took place," Prokop wrote. "The story of January 6, in Carlson’s extremely selective and misleading telling to his viewers, isn’t about how a mob whipped up by the president of the United States tried to prevent the transfer of power, or how that president tried to steal the election.
"It’s about how Democrats and the media were mean to Trump supporters. The story is also about how he, Tucker Carlson, would never do something like that. He loves you, Trump supporters. He respects you. Pay no attention to those texts behind the curtain about how he disdains and disbelieves Donald Trump. He is your loyal champion against your enemies. So please — don’t change the channel," Prokop said. "What all this omits from the narrative is that, well, Donald Trump actually tried to steal the election! He worked feverishly to try to get state officials and members of Congress to change the outcome after Election Day, and he hoped the crowd assembled on January 6 would aid him in that effort."
In The New Republic, Alex Shephard called it "desperate whitewashing."
"It has been well established from the very beginning that Capitol Police were so overwhelmed that they were unable to gain control of the chaotic unfolding situation and were, in many cases, relegated to simply accompanying rioters. Carlson implies that his footage should exonerate Chansley. Alas, it did not: Chansley’s attorneys had access to this footage via discovery; much of it was already publicly available and his public defender noted that he did not take part in any of the violence at the Capitol, something that appears to be true," he wrote. "It doesn’t matter: The same video footage shows that Chansley is clearly guilty of the thing to which he pleaded guilty, obstructing an official proceeding.
"The fact that not every rioter was violent that day is hardly relevant; no one has contended so, and many of those who were present inside the Capitol that day have received light sentences as a result," Shephard said. "Some of the people who entered the Capitol were violent. People died as a result. Many people were injured. These casualties were among the consequences of an attempt to violently overthrow the United States government. The grievances of the rioters, moreover, were based on lies. Lies that Carlson has admitted he does not believe. The 2020 election was not stolen, and Carlson knows it. He just can’t let his viewers know."
What the right is saying.
- The right is split on the segments, with some praising Carlson for upending the mainstream narrative and others angry he misled his viewers.
- Some say the footage has undermined central Democrat narratives about January 6.
- Others say Carlson is employing revisionist history to keep his viewers.
In The Federalist, Tristan Justice praised the segment and criticized the media's reaction to it.
"On Monday night’s edition of 'Tucker Carlson Tonight,' Fox News published tapes from the Capitol riot two years ago, which undermined central Democrat narratives," Justice wrote. "Left-wing lawmakers on Capitol Hill spent two years exploiting the few hours of political turmoil to smear Republicans as violent extremists, complete with summer show trials produced by a former television executive. After reviewing more than 40,000 hours of footage released to them by Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Carlson aired three segments that illustrated a deception campaign put forward by Democrats’ Select Committee on Jan. 6. The first revealed Jacob Chansley, known as the 'Q-Anon Shaman' who became the face of the Capitol ‘insurrection,’ was given VIP treatment by police officers and even escorted throughout the complex.
"The second segment from Carlson’s program showed Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick walking, 'healthy and vigorous,' around the Capitol building after altercations with protesters," he wrote. "Jan. 6 hoaxers on the Select Committee claimed those altercations caused Sicknick’s subsequent death. Sicknick’s Jan. 7 death was exploited by Democrats and their allies in the media as a direct consequence of the turmoil at the Capitol... Carlson’s third segment revealed that Ray Epps, a suspected federal informant who encouraged protestors to storm the Capitol both on the eve and day of the riot, appears to have lied to federal investigators about his whereabouts on Jan. 6."
The New York Post editorial board said you can condemn January 6 but still have questions about what happened.
"Jan. 6, 2021, was a shameful day in American history, a riot stirred up by sore loser Donald Trump to stay in power. There are also questions about the actions of the Capitol Police that day, and whether some of the people who entered the building were treated unfairly by the courts. Both things can be true," the board wrote. "But it’s a mark of how polarized we are as a society — and the way that elites insult the intelligence of Americans — that such balance is vilified and even censored. On Monday night, Tucker Carlson aired Jan. 6 footage the public hasn’t seen. Some of it was very familiar: people breaking through windows and doors, flooding into the Capitol to try to stop Joe Biden from becoming president.
"But some of the material is frankly bizarre. Why do two cops follow 'QAnon Shaman' Jacob Chansley around, even opening the door for him to get onto the Senate floor? Why isn’t he escorted out of the building, or arrested? The Capitol Police tell The Post that their forces were outnumbered, that they asked Chansley to leave but he wouldn’t. They weren’t trying very hard," the board said. "Chansley argued at trial exactly what the video shows — that police aided him. The judge still sentenced him to nearly four years in prison. Is that punishment fair? And were other riot defendants held too long or in questionable conditions? To ask these questions is not to dismiss what happened on Jan. 6. The people who disgustingly broke into the Capitol or struck police should be prosecuted."
In National Review, Noah Rothman criticized the "revisionist history" of Tucker Carlson.
"The riots in and around the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, might be the most extensively photographed act of mass violence in the nation’s history. And yet, there’s still more footage of the day’s events that the public had not yet seen — closed-circuit security camera footage from inside the Capitol, in fact, which House speaker Kevin McCarthy provided to Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson. On Monday night, Carlson played that footage for his viewers and claimed that it invalidates the notion that the attack on the Capitol Building was an attack at all," Rothman wrote. "This monumental allegation is not supported by the facts Carlson presented. The footage of that day’s events confirms from discrete angles an account of events already well established by media outlets and congressional investigatory bodies.
"If that account is unfamiliar to Fox viewers, that says more about the network and its priorities than the news outlets and institutions Carlson set out to indict," he wrote. "'To this day,' Carlson said, 'there is dispute over how Chansley got into the Capitol Building.' But by whom? They would have to contend with footage already made public showing Chansley entering the building after a fellow rioter shattered and crawled through a window. Chansley testified to that... [Chansley] is hardly the only excruciatingly well-documented example of outmanned police officers calmly engaging with demonstrators, clearing the way for or corralling intruders in the Capitol complex, or retreating to more defensible terrain. Nor is this specific act of deference by Capitol Police officers remarkable. The Post later confirmed that the officer featured in Carlson’s footage, Officer Keith Robishaw, spoke with HBO documentarians about his experience with Chansley."
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- The vast majority of what Carlson aired was simply new angles on footage we've seen.
- His narrative was, on the whole, very misleading to viewers.
- There was a real opportunity here to add more nuance to the narrative, but Carlson and Fox squandered it.
It's hard to know where to begin.
First, and importantly, I want to be clear that I'm glad this footage is coming out. Rather than fight McCarthy on handing it over to Fox News, reporters and politicians should be insisting he release the footage to more news organizations. If McCarthy is really interested in "transparency," as he claims, he should actually be transparent — not conduct a political operation, which is what this looks like so far.
Second, I also want to be clear that this footage did not teach us much we didn't already know. Carlson's segment mostly recycled information we had, but reframed it in the tone of a "bombshell" news story, packaging new camera angles on events we’ve already seen, and then insisting this was an obvious indictment on every Democrat and journalist who has ever breathed a word about this story.
Let me give you an example of how he is misleading viewers with that narrative.
Carlson's biggest focus was "QAnon Shaman" Jacob Chansley. He insists the footage showing Capitol Police walking Chansley around proves he was on something closer to an innocent police-assisted tour, rather than the mission to obstruct the certification of the election that he was convicted of. But the footage Carlson shows doesn't prove that. It is, I admit, bizarre to see some of the images of police calmly standing next to Chansley. It is also footage we had, in large part, not yet seen.
But we already knew that Capitol Police, once they realized how wholly outnumbered and overwhelmed they were by the January 6 protesters, opted to try to de-escalate rather than fight. We know this because they testified as much. They testified to doing exactly what the footage shows them doing: Escorting some of the protesters around, hoping they would be satisfied enough to obey their orders to leave. The officer featured prominently in Carlson's segment, Keith Robishaw, had already described this to a crew from an HBO documentary about that day.
“The sheer number of them compared to us, I knew ahead there was no way we could all get physical with them,” Robishaw said. “I walked in behind [Chansley], and that is when I realized I am alone now. I was by myself.”
Robishaw is also on tape, filmed by reporter Luke Mogelson, repeatedly asking the protesters evacuate the premises. He is ignored. This is not anything like being a "tour guide." This film was all published and discussed widely in the weeks after January 6. I almost prefer to think Carlson and his team must have missed it, otherwise he is again intentionally misleading his viewers. Mogelson’s video has over three million views on YouTube, and was published on nearly every television network; but the narrative Carlson constructs does not comport at all with this reality.
This is just one example of many. The conservative columnist Noah Rothman (above, under “what the right is saying”) did a great job de-constructing all the misleading tales: Carlson says there is a "dispute" over how Chansley got into the building. There is not. We know that Chansley was with a group of rioters who were shattering windows and then pushed through doors to the Capitol. That is all on tape. In fact, Chansley had previously told CBS’ 60 Minutes that he was "waved through" into the Capitol by police. That claim angered the judge in his case so much that he chastised him in court for lying, then ordered the release of footage showing how Chansley actually entered the Capitol. That story was front page news in many outlets over the course of several days. I’m hopeful Carlson’s team somehow missed it.
Carslon also suggested Ashli Babbitt was "murdered," a legal allegation which the officer in question has been absolved of, making such a claim — from a news anchor — egregiously irresponsible. Babbitt tried to climb through an interior window that would have gotten her into the Speaker's Lobby, a secure area just outside the House chamber. A Capitol Police Lieutenant named Michael Byrd drew his firearm and repeatedly told Babbitt to stop, fearful the mob would follow in behind her. She refused. He shot her once in the left shoulder. Then a Capitol Police emergency response team administered aid and evacuated her to a hospital, where she died. Just yards away, behind Byrd, were dozens of lawmakers, hiding in the House chamber, having been warned that some of the rioters had loudly and clearly promised they were going to find and kill them.
Again: You do not have to take my word for this. All of it is on video from multiple angles. There is no mystery here.
However, there were some elements of what Carlson ran that were interesting, new, and correct. The January 6 Committee did, at times, turn into a show trial. Networks like CNN were regularly receiving leaked footage and information to make it as politically damning for Trump as possible. Since Carlson aired his footage, Bennie Thompson (D-MS), who chaired the committee, made the surprising admission that he didn’t think any members on the committee had ever had access to the Capitol footage Carlson released. Instead, Thompson said, staff watched it.
Other framings also had elements of truth. U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, for instance, died the day after the riots. Many news outlets, including The New York Times, initially said he was beaten with a fire extinguisher and implied he was killed by rioters. It turns out no such beating ever occurred. The Times had to retract that report after a medical examiner determined Sicknick died of natural causes after suffering several strokes. Carlson aired footage of Sicknick walking around, presumably healthy, at a time stamp after The Times had initially reported he had been beaten with the fire extinguisher.
But, again: We already knew that report was erroneous. We did learn Sicknick had been sprayed in the face with some kind of chemical and collapsed at 10pm that night, after the riots, but the medical examiner ruled there was no correlation between that and his death. The idea that the two events are totally unrelated seems like a rather shocking coincidence to me, but what can we do but trust the examiner’s report?
Carlson, though, once again took things too far: He claimed that members of the January 6 Committee repeatedly alleged Sicknick was “murdered" by rioters, despite knowing that was a lie. Nobody on the committee ever alleged that — not once. Again: There are transcripts of every word spoken at those committee hearings. The committee accurately depicted the violence Sicknick suffered, and his cause of death; they never claimed or implied he “was murdered” by Trump supporters or January 6 rioters.
Carlson also pointed out that the footage shows Ray Epps, a man many suspect was a federal informant, was on the Capitol grounds 30 minutes after he had told federal investigators he left. The footage Carlson shows appears to confirm this, but doesn’t really prove anything. I have written about Ray Epps and spent many, many hours trying to figure out his story, and Carlson's "bombshell" really doesn't change it. It should go without saying, but the fact Epps could have lied (or been 30 minutes off) about the time he left the Capitol does not mean he is a federal informant or somehow orchestrated thousands of people rioting and trespassing into the Capitol building. Carlson seems to imply otherwise.
Again: So much of Carlson’s report covered things we already knew. There were news crews, journalists, and photographers present on January 6. Capitol rioters filmed themselves extensively, so much so that ProPublica has an entire video archive where you can pick any moment in time from that day and see what was happening at the Capitol — all from the perspective of protesters. It is a rather remarkable collection. Spend five minutes clicking around and I doubt you’ll conclude what Carlson does.
When taking all the footage into account from that day — including Carlson's — the conclusion is rather plain. Carlson portrays the day as a largely peaceful intrusion on the Capitol with police assisting folks into the building and patriotic Americans showing reverence for the premises.
This is farcical. Certainly, some trespassers were calmly taking pictures and soaking up the Capitol. I bet many viewed their visit in these terms. I’m sure the crowd was a mix of normal tourists, level-headed Trump supporters, angry rioters, and hardcore extremists. But the most crazed had planned a violent overthrow for months. Many hundreds of them were enraged, destructive, and fighting with police officers, and the more visibly peaceful among the crowd only entered the building after windows had been smashed, police overrun, and doors broken through. They were not invited in, waved through, or given tours.
Hundreds if not thousands of people were violent and destructive. There were some moments of peace and calm, and some attempts by police to remove people from the premises without a physical struggle. Many people were hurt, millions of dollars of damage was done, and Capitol Police were entirely outnumbered and overmatched for hours. At least a few dozen of the protesters explicitly intended to commit physical violence against lawmakers, and many more than that engaged in physical violence against police.
Frankly, it is remarkable that in this entire fracas just a single shot was fired by one officer. That shot was a tragedy, and should never have needed to be fired, but it was not the officer's fault — nor the fault of Democrats or the media.
There are, quite literally, hundreds of thousands of hours of video and photographic evidence to corroborate all of this, not to mention the firsthand account of thousands of people who were present. That Carlson could fill a few minutes of television time with images of protesters behaving peacefully should be no surprise.
There are still questions about that day I want answered, and still concerns I have about the treatment of some January 6 prisoners. But Carlson and Fox News had a privileged opportunity to add nuance to these questions in a way that got us closer to the truth, and they squandered it, instead tallying yet another strike against their own credibility.
We're skipping today's reader question and going to answer a whole slew of them in tomorrow's reader mailbag edition. Want to have a question answered in the newsletter? You can fill out this form.
Under the radar.
In one of the strongest signals yet that he intends to run for president, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is scheduled to meet GOP lawmakers in Iowa. DeSantis "will greet members of the state House and Senate at the Capitol, engaging in the sort of retail politicking that’s expected in the Iowa caucuses," Bloomberg reports. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (R) is expected to attend the event, though she has said she'll remain neutral in the Republican primary. DeSantis is currently on a national tour to promote his book "The Courage to Be Free," and his visit comes just three days before Donald Trump’s expected visit. Bloomberg has the story.
- $2.7 million. The estimated amount of damage done by Capitol rioters.
- Over 1,000. The number of people arrested on charges related to the January 6 riot.
- 518. The number of people who have pleaded guilty to federal crimes so far.
- 140. The number of police officers who were assaulted during the riots.
- 10. The length in years of the longest sentence issued for a Capitol rioter yet, given to ex-cop Thomas Webster, who swung a metal flagpole at an officer during the riots.
- 80. The length in months of the sentence given to Julian Elie Khater, the 33-year-old convicted of dousing Officer Sicknick with pepper spray.
- One year ago today we covered Biden's decision to ban Russian oil.
- The most clicked link in yesterday's newsletter: Our ad for The Gist newsletter.
- "Alright" to ESG: 51% of Tangle readers said they want their investment managers considering ESG, 29.8% said they didn't, 4.8% said they weren't sure and 14% chose "other" to offer a different response.
- Nothing (really) to do with politics: Adidas is stuck with $1.3 billion of Kanye West's shoes, and has no idea what to do with them.
- Take the poll: How would you describe the attendees of the January 6 protests? Let us know.
Have a nice day.
An alligator that was believed to have been stolen from a Texas zoo is coming home — more than 20 years later. Officials from Texas Parks and Wildlife said they found an alligator that had been in the care of a former zoo volunteer for more than 20 years. The volunteer allegedly stole an egg or young alligator hatchling and left the zoo with it in her pocket, then kept the alligator as a pet. Employees from the zoo traveled some 50 miles to retrieve the alligator. Gators have been making news recently: A four-foot alligator was recently found in a park in Brooklyn. In Philadelphia, a 3-foot caiman, a relative of the alligator, was rescued from FDR park. CBS has the latest in the alligator diaries.
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