I served as a senior professional staff member on the January 6th Select Committee and helped write its final report. I got a close look at some of the video evidence that Carlson obtained — and his manipulation of the audience was immediately obvious to me. Here’s why.
First, the premise of his “investigation,” that the USCP footage was being withheld to cover up the full story, was always false. Working with the Select Committee’s members, the investigative team and staffers reviewed the USCP’s recordings, which provided new angles at some key locations. But it did not change our basic understanding of what transpired. How could it? The riot is one of the most widely covered events in history. There is no dearth of footage from that day.
In addition to the USCP’s surveillance video, the Select Committee reviewed footage recorded by cameras worn by Metropolitan Police Department officers, the work of documentary filmmakers and countless open-source videos, including clips recorded by the rioters themselves. Many Americans have already seen some of this footage with their own eyes. They know the mob was not at the Capitol primarily for sightseeing, as Carlson claimed.
On Monday night, the Fox News host showed just several minutes of cherry-picked footage. Cameras inside the Capitol and on its grounds recorded many more scenes that he did not play for viewers. Some of this footage has long been available online. For example, you can watch rioters ramming their way through USCP officers at the Senate Wing door, members of the mob smashing the ornate East Rotunda doors before other rioters open them from the inside, and the melee at the west plaza tunnel (at the two-hour, 14-minute mark). You can also view a timeline of events used by federal prosecutors, who relied on the USCP’s camera footage. Carlson’s team had access to this footage, and more, but chose not to show any of it to Fox News viewers Monday night. It’s easy to see why. The full USCP cache tells a very different story from the one Carlson wants people to see.
There is another fundamental problem with Carlson’s presentation that may not be so easy for the casual viewer to spot. He has repeatedly whitewashed the key role played by far-right extremists, namely, the Proud Boys. Their story, including how then-President Donald Trump inspired them, is told in Chapters 6 and 8 of the January 6th Select Committee’s final report. The Proud Boys and other extremists led the mob, but Carlson refuses to let his viewers know it.
Let us compare one of Carlson’s conspiracy theories to the well-established facts. For more than two years, Carlson has chased a bogeyman, arguing that provocateurs working for the federal government (or, alternatively, agitators on the left) somehow tricked Trump’s “patriots” into rioting. He still cannot identify any federal agents working for the so-called “deep state.” Carlson and others have focused on a lone individual who has not been charged, Ray Epps, insinuating that he was a secret FBI plant. This claim is baseless. They’ve produced no evidence connecting Epps, a Trump supporter, to the FBI or any other federal agency.
Meanwhile, Carlson has ignored nearly all of the evidence collected against the approximately 1,000 January 6th defendants who have been charged. That evidence reveals the real parties responsible for channeling the mob’s anger.
In fact, one of the most important January 6th trials is currently ongoing in a Washington, D.C., courtroom. Five members of the Proud Boys, including the group’s chair, Enrique Tarrio, have been charged with seditious conspiracy and other serious crimes. The Department of Justice claims the Proud Boys “conspired to prevent, hinder and delay the certification of the Electoral College vote, and to oppose by force the authority of the government of the United States.” Moreover, on Jan. 6, 2021, the Proud Boys “directed, mobilized and led members of the crowd onto the Capitol grounds and into the Capitol, leading to dismantling of metal barricades, destruction of property, breaching of the Capitol building, and assaults on law enforcement.”
The DOJ’s allegations are consistent with the Select Committee’s findings, as well as the investigative work done by real reporters. Law enforcement officials have collected overwhelming evidence, including text messages and videos, showing how the Proud Boys conspired against America’s democracy. They discovered that Tarrio told his men to “storm the Capitol” in the days leading up to the joint session of Congress.
While the attack was underway, Tarrio also claimed responsibility, messaging his men: “Make no mistake…” and “We did this.” Then, on the night of Jan. 6, Tarrio posted a video on the conservative social media site Parler that he titled, “Premonition.” The video shows a masked man, dressed as a super villain, standing in front of the Capitol. The figure is presumably Tarrio himself and the clip, recorded prior to Jan. 6, implies that he had foreknowledge of that day’s events.
You can watch “Premonition” here. It’s the type of spooky scene, set to foreboding background music, that makes for good television. Carlson did not show it to his viewers. In fact, he did not mention the Proud Boys at all.
The Select Committee’s review of video footage from multiple sources, including the U.S. Capitol Police, showed that the Proud Boys were conspicuously present on the front lines and at key breach points throughout the attack. Prosecutors are currently relying on the same type of footage, as well as additional sources of video, to make their case to a jury.
For example, Proud Boy leaders Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean riled up the crowd at the Peace Circle Monument just outside of the U.S. Capitol. The Select Committee showed how the Proud Boys marched from the Washington Monument, around the Capitol, and then instigated the first perimeter breach at this key location. By attacking the police officers stationed between the monument and the Capitol, sweeping away security fences in the process, the Proud Boys and their associates opened a clear path onto the Capitol’s grounds. Thousands of Trump’s supporters marched down Pennsylvania Avenue and through the Peace Circle after leaving the president’s rally at the White House Ellipse.
Dominic Pezzola, another Proud Boy, was responsible for the first breach of the U.S. Capitol building itself. Pezzola smashed in a Senate Wing window with a stolen riot shield. This allowed the mob to swarm into the Capitol through both the window and a nearby door. Pezzola bragged about his actions in a video he recorded of himself inside the Capitol. While smoking a victory cigar, Pezzola said: “I knew we could take this motherfucker over if we just tried hard enough. Proud of your motherfuckin’ boy.”
During his presentation Monday night, Carlson focused on Jacob Chansley, a.k.a. the QAnon Shaman, pretending that he is the central figure in the January 6th story. Carlson claimed that we still don’t know how he entered the building. That’s not true — even the footage shown by Carlson makes it clear that Chansley entered through the Senate Wing door next to the window Pezzola bashed in.
There is much more evidence against the Proud Boys. Some members of the group have already pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and other charges, admitting that their comrades planned to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory. And the Proud Boys were not the only far right extremists involved. Members of two anti-government groups, the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, attacked the Capitol as well. Some Oath Keepers have pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy, while juries convicted the group’s leader and other members of the same crime. White nationalists were also among the extremists who stormed the Capitol.
The Fox News audience did not hear any of this. Nor did they hear how Trump summoned these extremists to Washington, D.C., for Jan. 6 via his tweets and statements. This part of the story is explained at great length in the Select Committee’s final report.
Tucker Carlson wants people to believe that phantom government agents were responsible. No one who relies on facts and logic will be fooled.