Republican Lawmakers Split Over Carlson’s False Jan. 6 Claims

WASHINGTON — Republicans on Capitol Hill split on Tuesday over a broadcast by Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host, in which he falsely portrayed the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol as a largely peaceful gathering, with House G.O.P. leaders promoting his report while top Republican senators condemned it.

The divide reflected a continuing rift in the party between those who want to move on from Jan. 6, regarding it as a political liability, and those who want to relitigate it publicly to feed the anger of the party’s hard-right base, which continues to revere former President Donald J. Trump, believe the lie that the election was stolen from him and insist that the riot at the Capitol two years ago was a justified response.

The broadcast on Monday night came about two weeks after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy granted Mr. Carlson and his team exclusive access to Capitol surveillance footage from Jan. 6, effectively outsourcing the task of rewriting the history of the riot to the right wing’s favorite news commentator, who has circulated conspiracy theories about the attack.

It came as court filings have revealed that Fox News hosts and executives, including Mr. Carlson, raised doubts privately about Mr. Trump’s claims of a stolen election, but continued to promote them on the air anyway.

Mr. Carlson opened his segment on Monday with a full-throated endorsement of the myth that the 2020 election was stolen from Mr. Trump, before pivoting to downplaying the mob violence on Jan. 6.

On Tuesday morning, the House Republican Conference, the party’s main messaging arm, tweeted a link to a portion of the report calling it a “MUST WATCH,” including four siren emojis for emphasis.

But the segment prompted anger in the ranks of the Capitol Police Department, whose members suffered dozens of injuries on Jan. 6 and lost two officers in the days following the assault. J. Thomas Manger, the Capitol Police chief, sent an internal message to his officers condemning the false portrayal.

Understand the Events on Jan. 6

“Last night an opinion program aired commentary that was filled with offensive and misleading conclusions about the Jan. 6 attack,” Chief Manger wrote. “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.”

So concerned with the false narrative were some Senate Republicans that Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate’s top Republican, carried a copy of Chief Manger’s letter with him to an afternoon news conference, holding it up unprompted and endorsing its content.

“Clearly the chief of the Capitol Police, in my view, correctly describes what most of us witnessed firsthand on Jan. 6,” Mr. McConnell said. “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.”

Other Republican senators joined him, including Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who at one point was his party’s nominee for president, and who called Mr. Carlson’s broadcast normalizing the violence of Jan. 6 “dangerous and disgusting.”

“The American people saw what happened on Jan. 6, they’ve seen the people that got injured, they saw the damage to the building,” Mr. Romney told reporters on Tuesday. “You can’t hide the truth by selectively picking a few minutes out of tapes and saying this is what went on. It’s so absurd, it’s nonsense.”

More than 150 officers from the Capitol Police; the Metropolitan Police of Washington, D.C.; and other agencies suffered injuries on Jan. 6 in scenes of hand-to-hand combat. A bipartisan Senate report found that at least seven people, including three police officers, had lost their lives in connection with the Jan. 6 attack.

The same day as Mr. Carlson’s segment, the Justice Department released its latest data from the Capitol attack investigation. More than 999 defendants have been arrested in nearly all 50 states and the District of Columbia, including 326 defendants who have been charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees. Those include approximately 106 individuals who have been charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer, the agency said.

But House Republican leaders cheered Mr. Carlson’s work, as many of them accused the House select committee that investigated the Jan. 6 attack, which had recommended criminal referrals for Mr. Trump and his allies and condemned the conduct of Republicans who attempted to help overturn the 2020 election, of mistreating them.

“Last night, @TuckerCarlson confirmed what I’ve been saying for well over a year,” Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, the No. 3 Republican, said in a tweet. “Nancy Pelosi’s sham, unconstitutional Jan 6th Committee was nothing more than a political witch-hunt designed to punish the radical Far Left’s political opponents.”

Mr. McCarthy said on Tuesday evening that he had not watched the segment, but he defended his decision to give Mr. Carlson the footage, stating that he wanted “transparency.”

Some Republican senators also praised Mr. Carlson, saying his report had provided a necessary alternative perspective on the riot.

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said Democrats and the media had “tried to use the violent acts of some to tarnish and attack the peaceful speech of many others, and I think it has been dishonest and partisan, and I think the American people deserve to have fuller context.”

Far-right House Republicans began mounting a wholesale effort to rewrite the history of what happened on Jan. 6 shortly after the attack, downplaying or outright denying the violence and deflecting efforts to investigate it. In Mr. Carlson, they have a powerful ally with high ratings.

But not all Republicans were pleased with his portrayal of the attack.

Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, used a barnyard epithet to describe Mr. Carlson’s depiction.

“When you see police barricades breached, when you see police officers assaulted?” Mr. Tillis said to CNN. “If you were just a tourist, you should have probably lined up at the visitor’s center.”

Senator Mike Rounds, Republican of South Dakota, said nothing Mr. Carlson aired changed the fact that the Jan. 6 riot was violent.

“I was here. I saw what happened. I saw the violence,” Mr. Rounds said. “And you know, I thought it was an insurrection at that time. I still think it was an insurrection today.”

Democrats, too, were outraged about Mr. Carlson’s report. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, condemned it on the Senate floor Tuesday and called on Rupert Murdoch, the C.E.O. of News Corp., to block the host from running a second segment on Tuesday night.

He said Mr. McCarthy had played a “treacherous game” by collaborating with Mr. Carlson and his conspiracy theories, and called the broadcast “shameful.”

“By diving deep into the waters of conspiracy, and cherry-picking from thousands of hours of security footage, Mr. Carlson told the boldfaced lie that the Capitol attack, which we all saw with our own eyes, was somehow not an attack at all,” Mr. Schumer said.

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