Tucker Carlson shows the first of his Jan. 6 footage, calls it ‘mostly peaceful chaos’
Editor’s note: Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) was asked to sit for a voluntary interview by the House select committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot. The information was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson released the first portion of never-before-seen angles of footage from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters on Monday, describing the scene at one point as “mostly peaceful chaos.”
“ ‘Deadly insurrection.’ Everything about that phrase is a lie,” Carlson said on his widely watched weeknight program. “Very little about Jan. 6 was organized or violent. Surveillance video from inside the Capitol shows mostly peaceful chaos.”
There have been multiple deaths tied to the attack, and roughly 1,000 arrests have been made in connection with it, while some 500 have pleaded guilty over their roles that day. More than 100 law enforcement officers were injured during the riot.
Carlson showed footage of people who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 roaming the hallways without vandalizing or warring with police officers, including “QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley being followed by officers walking behind him and passing a group of several officers without being stopped.
While Carlson said that it was not clear how Chansley got into the Capitol, documents filed relating to a plea agreement from the “QAnon Shaman” said he admits that he entered the building through a broken door around a minute after it was breached, becoming one of the first 30 rioters in the Capitol. Already-public security footage shows his entrance.
Carlson downplayed other widely circulated footage from Jan. 6 that showed rioters assaulting officers who were met with bear mace and violence, in some cases getting pinned in doorways. Other footage shows rioters breaking windows and vandalizing the building as they roamed through the hallway.
Carlson aired the footage after being granted access to the trove of security tapes by Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), prompting outrage from Democrats and pundits in the media who raised concerns that the tapes could threaten Capitol security procedures and amplify conspiracy theories.
The influential Fox News host on Monday night’s show continued to nod to such a theory circulating on the right that federal agents helped incite the violence, though he stopped short of providing evidence to prove it.
“For more than two years we have wondered why some in the crowd that day who seem to be inciting violence were never indicted for it,” Carlson said. “We assumed these were federal agents of some sort. We still assume that. In fact, there were many examples of behavior we saw in those tapes that didn’t seem to make sense … As of tonight, we don’t know. Because we don’t know, we will not put their faces on the screen and suggest they were federal agents. That would be irresponsible. So there were many mysteries we could not solve.”
Carlson said he was “grateful” to McCarthy, whom he has criticized in the past, for granting his team access to the footage.
As McCarthy faced GOP opposition that threatened to derail his Speakership election at the start of the year, Carlson had suggested that he pledge to release the full Jan. 6 security footage online.
Carlson charged that members of the Jan. 6 select House committee lied about what they saw on the security footage.
“Whatever you think of Speaker Kevin McCarthy, he rectified that crime, and we’re grateful that he did,” he said.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (Miss.), the former chairman of the Jan. 6 panel and the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a Monday evening statement that it “is a dereliction of duty for Kevin McCarthy to give Tucker Carlson carte blanche access to sensitive U.S. Capitol security surveillance footage from one of the darkest days in the history of our democracy.”
“Despite repeated warnings as to the sensitive nature of this footage, the Speaker decided it was more important to give in to a Fox host who spews lies and propaganda than to protect the Capitol and the police, members, and staff that serve in it,” Thompson said.
Carlson said that his producers had “unfettered access” to the Capitol surveillance video, and that neither the Speaker’s office nor his bosses at Fox News interfered with their review of the footage. Most of the more than 40,000 hours of tape was “irrelevant” views of empty rooms, he said.
Capitol Police reviewed the footage shown on air, and Carlson said their reservations were “minor” and “reasonable.” His show blurred the details of an interior door in the Capitol due to those concerns.
“There’s a limit to the decisions we can make about” the footage, Carlson said.
He also revisited the clip of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) fleeing the Capitol, complaining it had been selectively edited, as Hawley was at the tail end of a group of senators who jogged out of the Senate chambers.
When the Jan. 6 committee aired that clip in July, however, the purpose was to demonstrate that Hawley, too, rushed to leave the chamber to avoid a crowd that hours earlier he had greeted with a raised fist of solidarity.
Then-Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) had said Hawley “also had to flee” the crowd, noting the annoyance of a Capitol Police officer who felt the senator had riled up protesters shortly before they stormed the building while under the protection of a police-manned barriers.
Carlson also offered a selective retelling of the tour Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) gave a crowd of constituents the day before the riot.
The Fox News host rehashed details already known about the episode: that Loudermilk gave the tour to constituents and toured only House office building and hallways while failing to make it into the actual Capitol.
But Carlson failed to mention that two of the men in Loudermilk’s party did show up at the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6.
“There’s no escape Pelosi, Schumer, Nadler. We’re coming for you. We’re coming in like white on rice, for Pelosi, Nadler, Schumer, even you AOC. We’re coming to take you out, and pull you out by your hairs,” one of the men Loudermilk gave a tour to said outside the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Loudermilk was asked to sit for a voluntary interview by the Jan. 6 panel alongside four other Republican lawmakers, but he did not meet with their investigators.
McCarthy’s granting of the tapes to Carlson comes more than a year after the conservative pundit produced and published a multi-part miniseries for Fox’s streaming service, dubbed “Patriot Purge,” which purported to tell an alternative story of the Jan. 6 insurrection and features at least one subject who suggests the event may have been a “false flag” operation.
“Patriot Purge” led to two Fox contributors quitting the network and reportedly caused concern within Fox’s news ranks, including among top anchors.
As he opened his show Monday, Carlson described the anger among supporters of then-President Trump in the weeks leading to the Capitol riot, noting “they believed the election they had just voted in had been unfairly conducted.”
“They were right. In retrospect, it is clear the 2020 election was a grave betrayal of American democracy, given the facts that have since emerged about that election,” he said. “No honest person can deny it. Yet the beneficiaries of that election continue to lie about what is now obvious.”
A recent deposition Carlson gave to lawyers for Dominion Voting Systems as part of the company’s ongoing $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox shows him throwing cold water on false claims of electoral fraud being spun by Trump and his allies in the weeks following the election.
“You keep telling our viewers that millions of votes were changed by the software. I hope you will prove that very soon,” Carlson confronted Trump attorney Sidney Powell after the election, according to a recent court filing. “You’ve convinced them that Trump will win. If you don’t have conclusive evidence of fraud at that scale, it’s a cruel and reckless thing to keep saying.”
Carlson said his team plans to show more clips from the Jan. 6 footage McCarthy’s office granted him during his show on Tuesday.
Updated Tuesday at 11:21 a.m.
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.