Millions of people who tuned in to major US TV channels on Thursday heard how the Jan. 6 insurgency was “the culmination of an attempted coup,” a “siege” where violent Trump supporters ruthlessly attacked the police, forcing politicians and staffers to run for their lives. .
On Fox News, however, there was a different take on historic congressional hearings exploring the attack on the Capitol in Washington DC.
The deadly riot was, according to primetime channel host Tucker Carlson, “an outbreak of mob violence, a forgetfully minor outbreak by recent standards, that took place over a year ago. and half”.
It was the alternate reality that Carlson, Fox News’ most-watched host, introduced as he opened his hour-long show. He went on to boast: the right-wing network would not cover one of the largest political audiences in recent American history.
“It’s all insulting,” Carlson said of the prime-time House subcommittee hearing on the insurrection, which revealed devastating new details about how Donald Trump appeared to back the government. assassination of his vice president and how Trump supporters have created a “war zone” outside. Capitol.
“Actually, it’s disturbed. And we’re not playing along. It’s the only hour on an American news channel that won’t broadcast its propaganda live.
“They’re lying and we’re not going to help them.”
What followed instead was an hour of obfuscation, bewilderment and what about, as Carlson, aided by a guest selection that included a man who was fired from the Trump administration. after speaking at a conference attended by white nationalists.
Carlson’s first guest was Fearless host Jason Whitlock. Whitlock immediately rehearsed what would become the line of the night.
“There was no insurrection,” Whitlock said. “There was a riot, a small one, which got a little out of hand.”
Scenes shown on other TV channels made this claim laughable. Non-Fox News viewers watched never-before-seen footage that showed police being kicked and beaten, and people carrying Trump 2020 flags breaking into the Capitol building.
Fox News viewers did not see them.
“If something remarkable happens, we’ll bring it to you immediately,” Carlson had said during his opening monologue.
It turned out Carlson has an unusual definition of remarkable, given that the committee was detailing how Trump, upon hearing his supporters chanting that Mike Pence should be hanged, said, “Maybe our supporters have the right idea. . Mike Pence deserves it,” Carlson was happily chatting with Tulsi Gabbard, the former Democratic Representative who railed against Congress passing a $40 billion Ukraine aid bill.
Gabbard – who has kept a relatively low profile since fiercely defending Vladimir Putin days before the Russian leader ordered the invasion of Ukraine – seemed happy to join Carlson in downplaying what was going on , insisting that Congress should focus on other issues. .
Carlson willingly took up this theme. He has repeatedly explained why Congress is holding this two-hour hearing when gas prices have risen, there are drug deaths and, most memorably, “this country has never come as close to a nuclear war in its history”.
During the first half of Carlson’s show, two tactics emerged: downplaying the insurgency and complaining that the House wanted to investigate it. As he entered the home stretch, Carlson came up with a new conspiratorial trope.
“The goal is not to find out the truth,” he said of the hearing. “It’s to hide the truth.”
According to the Fox News host, the purpose of the commission is to provide an excuse “for the Democratic Party to declare war on the millions of American citizens who oppose their agenda.”
To back up his point, as it was, Carlson – finally – showed some of the audience.
“Liz Cheney is helping them,” he said. “Here moments ago she’s screaming about misinformation.”
Fox News cut a clip of Cheney speaking in an extremely measured tone about how Trump tried to undo the 2020 election result through a disinformation campaign — a campaign that Cheney said “provoked violence on January 6”.
“She’s gone to another planet,” Carlson said. “Why is Liz Cheney encouraging the destruction of American civil liberties and our sacred standards?”
Fox News typically has more than 3 million viewers at 8 p.m., but announced earlier this week that it would not broadcast the hearing, instead relegating coverage to the Fox Business channel, which averages less than 100. 000 viewers.
The channel kept its boycott promise. Occasionally, as Carlson spoke, a video feed from the committee would appear in a small silent box, floating to the right of the host’s head, but that was largely all.
As the hearing continued, Carlson talked about his guests. A man running as a Republican for Congress said people on Capitol Hill had legitimate grievances about voter fraud, before admitting things had gotten “a bit dicey.” Another guest made vague statements about the entire insurgency concocted by the FBI.
The last person Carlson interviewed was Darren Beattie, a right-wing activist who was fired as Trump’s speechwriter after it emerged he attended a conference in 2016 alongside a prominent white nationalist. .
Beattie’s view – backed up by Carlson – was that “the Feds” were responsible for the January 6 riot.
“It’s a clear hoax, we know it happened.”
Carlson might well have nodded. Last year he hosted a documentary, Patriot Purge, about the January 6 attack which launched the conspiracy theory that the violence that day was instigated by left-wing activists. Carlson also suggested that FBI agents staged the attack on the Capitol.
While Carlson praised Beattie’s reporting, courage and overall standing as a person, it echoed something Carlson had said earlier, after spending several minutes critiquing the audience with Charlie Hurt, a writer from the newspaper of right Washington Times.
“You and I got into journalism around the same time, about 30 years ago,” Carlson told Hurt.
“It seemed honorable then. It really seems shameful now.