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As Jan. 6 Panel’s Evidence Piled Up, Conservative Media Doubled Down


After the Jan. 6 committee’s final summer hearing last week, the talk on the sets of CNN and MSNBC turned to an intriguing if familiar possibility about what might result from the panel’s finding. The case for a criminal prosecution of former President Donald J. Trump, many pundits said, was not only justified but seemed greater than likely given the evidence of his inaction as rioters sacked the Capitol.

If that felt like déjà vu — more predictions of Mr. Trump’s looming downfall — the response to the hearings from the pro-Trump platforms felt like something recent, reflecting the lengths to which his Praetorian Guard of friendly media have gone to rewrite the violent history of that day.

At the same time as the committee’s vivid depiction of Mr. Trump’s failure to intervene led two influential outlets on the proper, The Recent York Post and The Wall Street Journal, to denounce him over the weekend, many top conservative media personalities have continued to push a more sanitized narrative of Jan. 6, 2021. They’ve turned the Capitol Police into villains and alleged the existence of a government plot to criminalize political dissent.

Mark Levin, the talk radio host, scoffed on the notion that Mr. Trump had tried to overturn the election or instigate an revolt. If he had, Mr. Levin explained during an appearance on Fox News as other networks aired the hearings live, the previous president would have taken more direct steps, reminiscent of ordering the arrest of Vice President Mike Pence or firing the attorney general.

“You’d think with all of the talk of criminality, they’d show us,” Mr. Levin said, speaking on Fox News on Thursday night. “There’s nothing,” he added. “Absolutely zero evidence that Donald Trump was involved in an effort to violently overthrow our elections or our government. Literally nothing.”

And to place a finer point on exactly what he meant, Mr. Levin read from a bit of the 14th Amendment that claims anyone who has “engaged in revolt or insurrection” is barred from holding federal office.

That was why the media kept calling Jan. 6 “an revolt,” Mr. Levin explained.

(The author of this text is an MSNBC contributor.)

A part of the proper’s message to Trump supporters is, in effect: You could have initially recoiled in horror at what you thought happened on the Capitol, but you were misled by the mainstream media.

“What’s weird is that after I check with these people, their disgust with the media over Jan. 6 is stronger now than it was a 12 months ago,” said Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman and talk radio host who left the party due to its unwavering support for Mr. Trump. By the point the committee presented its evidence, Mr. Walsh added, “half the country didn’t give a rattling or thought it was a hoax.”

The dissonance could be perplexing. The identical Fox News hosts who were imploring the president’s chief of staff to intercede with the president or risk “destroying his legacy,” as Laura Ingraham put it in a text to Mark Meadows on Jan. 6, now accuse the mainstream media of exaggerating the events on the Capitol.

Key Revelations From the Jan. 6 Hearings

The conservative narrative often relies on kernels of truth about incomplete or inconsistent statements from law enforcement and witnesses — a typical occurrence in any investigation so sprawling — that Mr. Trump’s allies within the media then magnify.

One of the influential journalists on the proper who has backed Mr. Trump after Jan. 6 is Julie Kelly, a author for the web site American Greatness, whose articles have informed the coverage in larger conservative media outlets like Fox News. For greater than a 12 months, Ms. Kelly has raised doubts in regards to the severity of the attack and played down the deaths of the law enforcement officials on 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 engaging” with pro-Trump rioters. An autopsy later revealed that he had died of natural causes after suffering multiple strokes hours after the attack.

Ms. Kelly and others seized on the findings, often without acknowledging that the officer had been assaulted and sprayed with an unknown chemical irritant by rioters, or allowing for the likelihood that the trauma he experienced played a job in his condition, which the medical expert noted. “Sicknick didn’t die consequently of anything that took place on January 6,” she declared in April in a chunk that ran under the headline “Defund the Capitol Police.” “But that just isn’t stopping Capitol Police from continuing to peddle the lie that Trump supporters are chargeable for his death,” Ms. Kelly added.

Ms. Kelly didn’t reply to an email searching for comment.

One other way conservative media personalities have turned on the Capitol Police is to assert that the notion of individuals breaching the Capitol by force is a few sort of hoax.

The Jan. 6 committee has shown quite a few videos of rioters breaking in. One captured a member of the Proud Boys, Dominic Pezzola, using a police shield to smash through a window, allowing dozens of rioters to storm the constructing.

On Tucker Carlson’s Friday program on Fox News he mocked the testimony of an anonymous former White House security official who said that Secret Service agents had called their families to say goodbye in case they were killed. Then Mr. Carlson played video wherein Capitol Law enforcement officials, vastly outnumbered, stand by passively as rioters stream through barricades.

“We will’t know why police are on video letting people into the Capitol complex,” he said, calling the hearings a “show trial” and saying he was happy with his network for not broadcasting them in prime time.

As Capitol Law enforcement officials are portrayed as something lower than heroic, recent heroes emerge. One story that went viral on the proper within the last week was a couple of 69-year-old woman, Pam Hemphill, who recently began a 60-day prison sentence after pleading guilty to trespassing within the Capitol on Jan. 6. The way in which Ms. Hemphill was portrayed on the Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, which replaced Rush Limbaugh’s program in lots of markets, was typical of the sympathetic messages conservatives heard about her. The hosts described her as a victim — a grandmother and a cancer patient who was given an unreasonably harsh sentence.

“Take into consideration months of B.L.M. protests throughout this country,” said Clay Travis, referring to the Black Lives Matter movement. “How a lot of those actual rioters are doing 60 days in prison for what they caused? This is totally indefensible.”

Even the most important revelations from the committee have fallen flat in right-wing media. When Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, described Mr. Trump’s violent response after the Secret Service agents refused to escort him to the Capitol, some right-wing commentators insisted that the previous president’s fans could be heartened to listen to that he was enraged about not having the ability to go.

Alex Marlow, the host of Breitbart News Every day, told his listeners that many Trump supporters loved the concept that their president was fighting to hitch them on the Capitol, as he told them he would.

In an email, Mr. Marlow said he thought many conservatives in his audience saw the hearings as they did the impeachment proceedings and the investigation conducted by Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference within the 2016 election. “Trump was a victim, yet again, of a drive-by smear campaign by the political and media establishments,” he said, describing his listeners’ view.

A part of the effectiveness of the conservative media’s defense of the previous president’s conduct on Jan. 6 has been its uniformity. Few have broken ranks to query his actions because the committee made its case. Some, nevertheless, have began to indicate an interest in other potential Trump rivals like Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. Ms. Ingraham broadcast her show on Friday on location from Florida, where she interviewed the governor.

However the Post’s and the Journal’s blistering denunciations of Mr. Trump over the weekend suggest that deeper cracks could also be beginning to form.

Each publications, which, like Fox News, are a part of Rupert Murdoch’s conservative media empire, published editorials questioning Mr. Trump’s character. The Journal described the newest revelations of his inaction as “horrifying.”

The Post went further, calling his behavior on Jan. 6 his “everlasting shame” and declaring, “Trump has proven himself unworthy to be this country’s chief executive again.”

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