Tucker's Firehose of Lies (and Hypocrisy)
(And why it’s not going well.)
“We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait. I hate him passionately.” — Tucker Carlson text to Fox News producer, January 4, 2021
Wait… there’s more:
“That’s the last four years. We’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest. But come on. There isn’t really an upside to Trump.” — Also Tucker on January 4, 2021
Oh my, the planets of bullsh*t have aligned marvelously, haven’t they?
Even as we get another juicy document drop from the Dominion lawsuit against Fox News, Tucker Carlson — in partnership with Kevin McCarthy — continued his attempt to retcon the attack on the Capitol.
What we are left with is a bouillabaisse of duplicity, deceit, and deception in a rich broth of hypocrisy.
May we add a dollop of schadenfreude?
“Congrats to Fox News” writes my colleague Sarah Longwell, “for following up their public exposure of knowingly lying to their audience about the 2020 election with knowingly lying to their audience about January 6th.”
And, of course, lying to their audience about Trump himself.
“That Tucker Carlson thinks his viewers are stupid is not new,” notes the Atlantic’s David Graham, “though his first swing at spinning unseen footage of the January 6 insurrection provides a fresh test of just how credulous they are.”
Tucker began his bizarre campaign of revisionism on Monday night, by insisting that the violent insurrection we all watched in real time wasn’t really an insurrection at all.
Most of the rioters, whom he called “sightseers,” were peaceful, he insisted. “Taken as a whole, the video record does not support the claim that January 6th was an insurrection,” Carlson declared. “In fact, it demolishes that claim.”
***This Reality Break is Brought to You by Sergeant Aquilino Gonell ***
The nine people who died as a result of that horrific day — including the four officers who died by suicide after the attack — weren’t so lucky. Neither was I. At the West Front of the Capitol, I was attempting to hold a tactical police line along with about 60 members of my team, as we were taught at the academy, to keep the invaders at bay. We were savagely beaten and easily overpowered. I later learned that the mob was estimated to be 10,000 strong.
It was like a medieval battleground. With our lives in peril, I would have been justified in using lethal force. But I didn’t want to spark a massacre. Over the course of the five-hour struggle, my hands were bloodied from being smashed by a stolen police baton. My right foot and left shoulder were so damaged that I needed multiple surgeries to repair them. My head was hit with such force with a pipe that I no doubt would have sustained brain damage if not for my helmet.
Back to Tucker’s alternative reality
“The footage does not show an insurrection or a riot in progress,” he claimed Monday. “Instead it shows police escorting people through the building.”
Trump loved it, of course. Elon Musk bought it. The usual truckling MAGA wannabes, like Running Josh Hawley, took it seriously. And McCarthy’s House GOP was ALL IN:
But in the fact-based universe, where Americans remember what actually happened, the blowback was intense.
The family of Brian Sicknick, the officer who died the day after defending the Capitol, issued a scathing statement after Carlson tried to downplay the injuries Sicknick suffered at the hands of pro-Trump rioters.
The Sicknick family is outraged at the ongoing attack on our family by the unscrupulous and outright sleazy so-called ‘news’ network of Fox News who will do the bidding of Trump or any of his sycophant followers, no matter what damage is done to the families of the fallen, the officers who put their lives on the line, and all who suffered on Jan 6th due to the lies started by Trump and spread by sleaze slinging outlets like Fox.
Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger also issued a rare statement ripping what he called “offensive” and “misleading” conclusions about the attack.
“Last night an opinion program aired commentary that was filled with offensive and misleading conclusions about the January 6 attack,” Manger wrote in an internal department memo obtained by CNN, adding that Carlson’s show didn’t reach out to the police department “to provide accurate context.”
Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans were quick to distance themselves from the Tucker/McCarthy goatf*ck. Via NBC: “‘Bulls---’: GOP senators rebuke Tucker Carlson for downplaying Jan. 6 as ‘mostly peaceful.’”
“I think it’s bullshit,” Tillis told reporters in the Capitol.
“I was here. I was down there, and I saw maybe a few tourists, a few people who got caught up in things,” he added. “But when you see police barricades breached, when you see police officers assaulted, all of that ... if you were just a tourist you should’ve probably lined up at the visitors’ center and came in on an orderly basis.”
McConnell explicitly endorsed the letter from the Capitol police chief.
“I want to associate myself entirely with the opinion of the chief and the Capitol Police about what happened on January 6,” McConnell said as he held up a copy of the letter. “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.”
Some of the other reax (via the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake):
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) summarized Carlson’s version as “some rowdy peaceful protest of Boy Scouts” and said to put what happened “in the same category as … permitted peaceful protest is just a lie.”
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said he was concerned about the House Jan. 6 committee’s work, but added, “I’m not interested in whitewashing Jan. 6.”
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called it “dangerous and disgusting” and compared it to Alex Jones’s portrayal of the Sandy Hook massacre.
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said, “I thought it was an insurrection at that time. I still think it was an insurrection today.”
Senate Republicans’ No. 2 John Thune (S.D.) said, “I think it was an attack on the Capitol. … There were a lot of people in the Capitol at the time that were scared for their lives.”
The fact-checkers were brutal, because there was so much to check, and the deceptions so numerous and blatant. Via NBC:
Video that Carlson didn’t air shows police and rioters engaged in hours of violent combat. Nearly 1,000 people have been charged in connection with the Capitol attack. About 140 officers were assaulted that day, and about 326 people have been charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers or employees, including 106 assaults that happened with deadly or dangerous weapons. About 60 people pleaded guilty to assaulting law enforcement. Two pipe bombs were also planted nearby but were not detonated.
The narrative last night ignores the tens of thousands of pages of court filings we’ve read and the tonnage of footage already released by the Justice Department and shown in open court…
And it ignores the powerful and at times tearful accounts of injured officers who are testifying under oath. Carlson called January 6th, quote, ‘mostly peaceful and meek with a small percent that was violent.’
How bad is it?
Other Fox shows seem to have launched Operation CYA. Via Mediaite: “Bret Baier Airs Report Questioning Tucker Carlson’s Jan. 6 Coverage, Features McConnell Saying Fox News Made ‘A Mistake’.”
Tom Nichols thinks the whole thing will backfire.
As Sonny Bunch from The Bulwark wryly observed this morning: “Going to be kind of funny to watch GOP candidates dance around acknowledging that the presidential frontrunner and the party’s semi-official media organ are more or less pro-storming-the-Capitol at this point.”
As counterintuitive as it might be, perhaps the best thing for American democracy would be for Carlson to keep bumbling his way through more January 6 footage and to keep images of the insurrection in front of millions of viewers for as long as possible.
If that’s how McCarthy and Carlson intend to restore the image of the GOP as a normal political party, who are any of us to argue with such public-relations geniuses?
BONUS: Tucker has become a parody of one of the right’s most beloved memes:
Give Us a Listen!
On yesterday’s Bulwark Podcast, Will Saletan and I discussed Tucker’s attempt to whitewash Jan 6th; Kari Lake’s plan for strength through capitulation; and the call to “eradicate” transgenderism.
You can listen to the whole thing here:
And for Bulwark+ members: Mona Charen and I have some thoughts about John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson, and more. You can listen here.
1. A Moment of Horror, and a New Hero for Ukrainians
Cathy Young writes in today’s Bulwark that a video circulating on social media of a Russian war crime has given the defenders of Ukraine a new icon of defiance.
On Monday, the grim chronicles of Russia’s war in Ukraine hit a macabre new low when a video appeared on social media depicting the apparent execution in cold blood of a captive Ukrainian soldier by Russian troops. The 12-second clip shows a weary-looking man in camouflage fatigues standing in a shallow trench in a wooded area calmly smoking a cigarette while someone off-camera, speaking Russian, says either “Film him” or “Don’t film him.”
Then, just as calmly, the man says “Slava Ukraini!”—“Glory to Ukraine!”—the slogan made famous by the past year’s war. “You bitch!” a man sputters off-camera, and at that very moment there is a burst of automatic gunfire, blowing off the prisoner’s cap and bringing him down a split second later. Then, almost without pause, more bullets rip into the fallen soldier’s body.
And a final off-camera comment, just before the video ends: “Sdokhni, suka” (“Croak, bitch”).
2. Can the CHIPS Act Be Implemented Without Becoming a Byzantine Mess?
Adam J. White in today’s Bulwark:
Can even the CHIPS Act—the most straightforward legislative initiative of the last two years, enacted for a plain and simple purpose of national security—not be executed energetically without meandering into a morass of other policy issues?
It’s not too late for the Biden administration to change its approach. More importantly, it’s not too late for Congress to enact amendments that would significantly reduce the Commerce Department’s discretion, for the sake of steady, swift, and successful administration of the program. Most importantly, it’s not too late for America to relearn the virtues of steady administration that Hamilton emphasized at the start. At least, one hopes not.
Recently joined Bulwark+, my first comment here!
"We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights," "I truly can't wait."
"I hate him passionately,"
"That's the last four years. We're all pretending we've got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it's been is too tough to digest. But come on. There isn't really an upside to Trump."
These latest texts feel particularly devastating, not only are they from before Jan 6th, but also express open personal animosity to Trump and state that the whole presidency was a failure. Clearly, though, the big problem is most people who like Tucker and like Trump are never going to see these. My big idea of the morning is that, if there was a campaign to rent cheaper billboards in Trumpy rural areas across the country and display these messages, it might be at least somewhat effective, at least raising some questions among Trumpist people (“just asking questions”). At best, a certain percentage of those that see the signs might become disillusioned with the whole movement, at worst it at least causes a bit of a headache for one of the worst people in America (Tucker, of course). Not sure on the legal aspects of this, but I’d certainly pitch in some money and time if this effort ever got off the ground.
The problem is that Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson are more representative of Republican voters today than Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney.