Fox News host Tucker Carlson has come under fire from Republicans after he described the 6 January 2021 attack on the US Capitol as “mostly peaceful chaos”.
On Monday, the 53-year-old conservative released security footage from the riots, which he was given exclusive access to by speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, last month.
Mr Carlson told his audience that other media accounts lied about the attack, proclaiming that most of the rioters were peaceful, calling them “sightseers” not “insurrectionists”.
“The footage does not show an insurrection or a riot in progress,” he said. “Instead it shows police escorting people through the building, including the now-infamous QAnon Shaman.”
In reaction, senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, among others, said it was a “mistake for Fox News to depict [the riots] in this way”.
Speaking at a news conference, Mr McConnell sided with the chief of Capitol Police, Thomas Manger, who denounced Mr Carlson for spreading “offensive and misleading conclusions” about the insurrection.
Other Republicans, including Senator Thom Tillis also commented, blasting the remarks as “bull****”, according to NBC.
Senator Mitt Romney added: “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.”
Nearly 1,000 people have been charged in connection with the attack on the Capitol. About 140 officers were assaulted, with only 60 people pleading guilty of assaulting law enforcement.
Mr Carlson was provided with 44,000 hours of security video by Mr McCarthy when he was struggling to gather votes to win the election for US Speaker, which went to the 15th round of voting due to splits in the Republican Party.
The clips promoted former president Donald Trump’s narrative that the riots – in which five people were killed – were “simple protests” that “got out of hand”.
Mr Carlson also said on his show that Democrats lied about the death of Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick – who suffered two strokes and died of natural causes a day after the event.
In a video played on Fox News, Mr Sicknick was seen walking around inside the Capitol after the mob attacked him. “They knew he was not murdered by the mob, but they claimed it anyway,” Mr Carlson said.
Democratic Senate leader, Chuck Schumer, called Mr Carlson’s actions “a dangerous, unforgivable attempt to destabilise our democracy and rewrite the history of the worst attack on our constitution since the Civil War”.
He added that Mr McCarthy was “every bit as culpable as Mr Carlson” by providing the popular news channel with thousands of hours of footage.
A Fox News spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.