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White House criticizes Tucker Carlson for depiction of Jan. 6 attack

Fox News host Tucker Carlson was given exclusive access by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to thousands of hours of footage from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. He began airing it this week. (Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters)
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The White House sharply criticized Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s misleading coverage of the violent 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters, after the prime-time host aired selectively edited security footage from that day and called it a mostly peaceful event.

“We agree with the chief of the Capitol Police and the wide range of bipartisan lawmakers who have condemned this false depiction of the unprecedented, violent attack on our Constitution and the rule of law — which cost police officers their lives,” Andrew J. Bates, a White House spokesman, said in a statement Wednesday.

Bates was referring to comments made Tuesday by Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger, who said Carlson’s show Monday night depicting the Jan. 6, 2021, attack as peaceful was “filled with offensive and misleading conclusions.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle also criticized Carlson’s portrayal of the attack, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who echoed Manger’s remarks. McConnell said he objected not to Carlson having access to the security video but to how Carlson framed the events of Jan. 6.

“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 in the Capitol thinks,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday.

In the statement Wednesday, Bates went on to say, “We also agree with what Fox News’s own attorneys and executives have now repeatedly stressed in multiple courts of law: that Tucker Carlson is not credible,” referring to an argument Fox News attorneys made while defending Carlson in a 2020 lawsuit in New York.

Analysis: How Tucker Carlson is wrong about Jan. 6

Later, at the daily White House briefing, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about Carlson, and she highlighted Fox News’s legal arguments that Carlson is not a credible source of information.

“You literally can’t believe the ‘facts’ Tucker Carlson tells you,” Jean-Pierre said. “So say Fox’s lawyers.”

Carlson, who has played down the deadly violence that occurred that day and claimed it was a “false flag” operation, began airing a fraction of the 41,000 hours of Jan. 6 security footage from the Capitol, to which he was given exclusive access by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Other news organizations, including The Washington Post, have pressed for access to the footage.

On his shows Monday and Tuesday, Carlson claimed that the footage proves that the Trump supporters who entered the Capitol that day were mostly peaceful, with large numbers of them no more than tourists who revered their surroundings. Five people died on that day or in the immediate aftermath, and 140 police officers were injured.

“Hundreds and hundreds of people, possibly thousands,” entered the Capitol, Carlson said. “A small percentage of them were hooligans. They committed vandalism. You’ve seen their pictures again and again. But the overwhelming majority weren’t. They were peaceful. They were orderly and meek. These were not insurrectionists. They were sightseers.”

“They’re not destroying the Capitol,” he added later. “They obviously revere the Capitol.”

Carlson also showed video that he said was of Capitol Police officers escorting Jacob Chansley, known as the “QAnon Shaman,” around the building after it had been breached.

‘Just a lie’: Senate Republicans blast Tucker Carlson’s Jan. 6 narrative

Carlson argued that Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick — who had a chemical irritant sprayed on him during the riot and who later suffered two strokes and died Jan. 7 — wasn’t the victim of a violent assault.

“Here is surveillance footage of Sicknick walking in the Capitol after he was supposedly murdered by the mob outside,” Carlson said. “By all appearances, Sicknick is healthy and vigorous.”

Carlson’s misleading and controversial episodes came as Fox News faces a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit, filed by Dominion Voting Systems, which argues that the network knowingly broadcast falsehoods claiming that Dominion machines were used to help Joe Biden defeat Trump. As part of the lawsuit, Dominion obtained and has made public messages that Carlson and other Fox executives and on-air talent sent one another privately, showing they did not believe many of the fraud claims they promoted on air.