WASHINGTON — The chief of the U.S. Capitol Police sharply criticized a wildly misleading Fox News report downplaying the severity of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
“Last night, an opinion program aired commentary that was filled with offensive and misleading conclusions about the January 6 attack,” Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger wrote in a department-wide bulletin on Tuesday.
In a major escalation of the Republican party’s efforts to rewrite the history of that day, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) granted Fox host Tucker Carlson hours of security camera footage from the riot.
Having supposedly reviewed the material, Carlson claimed snippets of calm scenes better represent the day’s events than footage of rioters fighting against the police.
“They were peaceful,” Carlson said of the pro-Trump mob. “They were orderly and meek. These were not insurrectionists. They were sightseers.”
Carlson never contacted the police for context, Manger said in his memo.
“The program conveniently cherry-picked from the calmer moments of our 41,000 hours of video,” Manger wrote. “The commentary fails to provide context about the chaos and violence that happened before or during these less tense moments.”
Several Republicans blasted Carlson’s false portrayal of the riot. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took the unusual step of rebuking Fox News, the Republican party’s greatest partner in media, and saying he associated himself with Manger’s letter, which he held up for the cameras at a press conference.
More than 500 rioters have pleaded guilty to federal charges for their actions that day, which had been inspired by Donald Trump’s lies that the 2020 election was stolen. Federal prosecutors have charged more than 300 people with assaulting or interfering with police, and Trump remains under investigation for his efforts to overthrow the election.
Carlson claimed the video showed officers acting as “tour guides” for shirtless rioter Jacob Chansley, also known as the “QAnon Shaman,” who infamously stood from the Senate rostrum wearing a fur hat with horns.
Manger called the tour guide allegation false and pointed out that the mob outnumbered the police. “Those officers did their best to use de-escalation tactics to try to talk rioters into getting each other to leave the building,” Manger said.
Carlson’s “most disturbing” accusation, Manger said, was that Officer Brian Sicknick had been “healthy and vigorous” after rioters attacked him with pepper spray, implying that Sicknick’s death had nothing to do with the day’s events. The D.C. medical examiner said Sicknick died of natural causes, namely a stroke.
Manger said that the department maintains, “as anyone with common sense would, that had Officer Sicknick not fought valiantly for hours on the day he was violently assaulted, Officer Sicknick would not have died the next day.”
Sicknick’s family, meanwhile, put out a statement calling Fox News sleazy and dishonest.