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Capitol Police chief blasts Tucker Carlson over ‘misleading’ Jan. 6 footage

Video aired by Carlson showed ‘QAnon shaman’ Jacob Chansley accompanied by police, but not violence on the day rioters stormed the Capitol

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger arrives before a House hearing in 2022. He criticized the selective use of video by Tucker Carlson in a Fox News show on Monday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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After watching the first installment of Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s look at Capitol surveillance video from the Jan. 6, 2021, riot, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger sent out a memo to his department Tuesday morning denouncing the show as “filled with offensive and misleading conclusions.”

The claim by Carlson that Capitol Police served as “tour guides” for Jacob Chansley, the horn-wearing “QAnon Shaman,” was “outrageous and false,” Manger wrote. He said that Capitol Police were badly outnumbered on Jan. 6, and that “those officers did their best to use de-escalation tactics to try to talk rioters into getting each other to leave the building.”

Fox spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Carlson did not respond to a text message seeking comment.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he sided with Manger’s account of events, appearing to hold up a copy of the chief’s memo.

“With regard to the presentation on Fox News last night, I want to associate myself entirely with the opinion of the chief of the Capitol Police about what happened on January 6th,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on March 7 criticized Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s depiction of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack. (Video: The Washington Post)

Some of the video aired by Carlson showed Chansley being accompanied by several Capitol Police officers as they walked through the hall during the riot. One of the officers was previously featured in a 2021 HBO documentary, “Four Hours at the Capitol,” and said that given “the sheer number of them compared to us, I knew ahead there was no way we could all get physical with them, so I took it upon myself to try to talk to them.” The officer is then seen on video walking behind Chansley as Chansley walks into the Senate Chamber.

Carlson noted that none of the officers arrested Chansley on Jan. 6. Capitol Police made very few arrests at the Capitol that day, police officials have said, because they were focused on clearing the building to enable the electoral vote certification to continue, and officers even released people they initially handcuffed so that the officers could return to pushing rioters outside.

After President Donald Trump issued a video calling for rioters to disperse, the HBO documentary shows Chansley shouting, “Trump has asked everybody to go home!” Chansley later pleaded guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding and was sentenced to 41 months in prison. Federal records show he is scheduled to be released in July after serving 30 months. Of 25 people sentenced so far for obstructing an official proceeding, the average sentence is 41.7 months, according to a Washington Post database.

Manger also said that Carlson and his producers did not seek context or comment from the Capitol Police before showing the surveillance videos.

Carlson said in the program that “before airing any of this video, we checked first with the Capitol Police. We’re happy to say their reservations were minor and for the most part, they were reasonable.” Capitol Police spokesman Tim Barber said: “We repeatedly requested that any clips be shown to us first for a security review. So far we have only been given the ability to preview a single clip out of the multiple clips that aired.”

Albert Watkins, Chansley’s attorney through sentencing in November 2021, said he had been provided many hours of video by prosecutors, but not the footage that Carlson aired Monday night. He said he had not seen video of Chansley walking through Capitol hallways with multiple Capitol Police officers.

“What’s deeply troubling,” Watkins said Tuesday, “is the fact that I have to watch Tucker Carlson to find video footage which the government has, but chose not to disclose, despite the absolute duty to do so. Despite being requested in writing to do so, multiple times.” He no longer represents Chansley and said he could not comment on what remedy might be sought for the defendant. Watkins suggested that all Jan. 6 defendants who were convicted based on video from the riot should have their convictions vacated.

It was not clear whether the prosecutors had seen everything that was released to Carlson, or what, specifically, they had turned over to Watkins. Carlson said his team spent three weeks reviewing 41,000 hours of surveillance video, which House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he released to Carlson. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office did not immediately comment.

Carlson’s 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.” Carlson previously produced a three-part series in 2021 called “Patriot Purge” on the streaming service Fox Nation, which suggested that the riot was orchestrated by antifa groups, the FBI and other government agencies and was a “false flag” operation to discredit Trump supporters.

“The most disturbing accusation from last night was that our late friend and colleague Brian D. Sicknick’s death had nothing to do with his heroic actions on January 6,” Manger said. “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.”

Carlson showed video of Sicknick returning to the fray after being sprayed with a chemical irritant. After the riot ended, Sicknick suffered a stroke and died. Sicknick’s family issued a statement Tuesday saying they were “outraged at the ongoing attack on our family by the unscrupulous and sleazy so-called ‘news’ network of Fox News. … Carlson’s ‘truth’ is to pick and choose footage that supports his delusional views that the Jan 6th insurrection was peaceful.”

Kenneth Sicknick, Brian D. Sicknick’s brother, told The Post, “Every time we think we’re past this, somebody comes along and rips off the bandage.”