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The primetime hearing of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol was carried across broadcast and cable networks, but not on Fox News.
Fox News gave the primetime hour to Tucker Carlson, who downplayed the attack and repeated false claims to his millions of viewers.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson didn’t just ignore the first primetime House hearing dedicated to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. He spent the show rehashing many of the same falsehoods about the attack he has promoted for months.
As other major TV networks carried the June 9 hearing live, Fox News stuck to its regular lineup of pro-Trump opinion hosts while delegating live coverage to the less popular Fox Business Network and streaming platforms.
"We’re not playing along," Carlson said at the opening of his show. "This is the only hour on an American news channel that will not be carrying their propaganda live. They are lying."
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Carlson and fellow host Sean Hannity ran hour-long shows with no commercial breaks and featured guests who have promoted discredited theories around the day. Laura Ingraham, host of the 10 p.m. slot on Fox News, went to commercial a few times.
Carlson, perhaps the most conspicuous promoter of falsehoods downplaying the attack, previously dismissed the Capitol insurrection as a "footnote" in American history.
The hearings Fox didn’t air included revelations about its own hosts. Committee vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., highlighted texts from Hannity to White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Jan. 7 calling for "no more stolen election talk."
Aly Colón, a professor of media ethics at Washington and Lee University, said Fox News’ decision to ignore the hearing represented a "breach" in terms of informing its audience.
"It leaves that audience not able to witness, at this stage, what other points of view are being advanced in the space," said Colón.
As committee leaders described how former President Donald Trump fought to remain in power and encouraged the mob, Carlson ran a chyron calling the hearing a "moral lecture." The Capitol attack was a "forgettably minor" incident of violence, Carlson said.
Carlson falsely suggested that President Joe Biden could not possibly have received millions more votes than President Barack Obama and espoused suspicion about votes counted after Election Day, arguing it justified the rioters’ anger. (Fact-check.)
He once again claimed that the attack was "not an insurrection" and downplayed the role of white supremacists. He claimed "not a single person in the crowd that day was found to be carrying a firearm," even as court documents show several rioters had firearms and dozens more wielded knives, bats and other real and makeshift weapons. He claimed Ashli Babbitt, the woman fatally shot by police as she tried to force her way further into the Capitol, "posed no conceivable threat to anyone." He suggested that a man named Ray Epps was proof of FBI involvement, even though Epps told House investigators he has no FBI ties and other evidence undercuts the conspiracy theories surrounding him.
Carlson misleadingly claimed that police let the rioters inside the building, focusing on one video from a day-long event that saw the rioters fight through police lines and assault about 140 officers. He suggested that early media reports that got details wrong about the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick were proof that everything the media has said was a lie.
"What we are going to do is try to get to the truth," Carlson said. "To do that, we've assembled a bunch of very knowledgeable people who know a lot more than they're telling you on the other channels about what happened on Jan. 6."
Carlson’s lineup included several right-wing media personalities whose blog sites have spread false claims about the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 insurrection, such as Julie Kelly of the website American Greatness, Sean Davis of the Federalist, and Darren Beattie of Revolver News.
Beattie, a former White House speechwriter who was fired in 2018 after appearing on a panel with a white nationalist, played a starring role in "Patriot Purge," Carlson’s three-part film that sought to recast Jan. 6, 2021, as a FBI-led false-flag attack meant to frame, trap and "purge" Trump voters in a "new war on terror."
Beattie and Carlson issued similar warnings on Carlson’s show June 9.
"He speeds through a litany of information, questions and commentary, leaving viewers dazzled but dizzy," Colón said. "The content matters less than the delivery. It reinforces what his viewers already believe."
These themes have dominated Fox News in the 17 months since the attack. According to the Washington Post, Fox News segments referenced Jan. 6, the House select committee, or the Capitol riot far less than CNN and MSNBC. Mentions of antifa — the coalition of left-wing activists falsely blamed, including by Fox News hosts, for carrying out the attack on the Capitol — appeared far more often on Fox News.
When Carlson handed off to Hannity, the focus turned to criticizing the committee.
Hannity went off on the "sham committee," saying it did not allow pro-Trump lawmakers to participate. In reality, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., withdrew all Republican nominees to the committee after Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., rejected two members who embraced Trump’s false election claims. Pelosi named Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., to the panel.
Hannity argued that the committee’s focus should have been on the day’s security failures. He shifted the blame for the attack away from Trump and toward Pelosi, repeating unsubstantiated claims that Pelosi rejected Trump’s request for thousands of National Guard troops at the Capitol.
Ingraham, whose show picked up minutes after the committee adjourned, said the hearings were structured in part to "distract you from Biden’s many failures" and boost Democrats’ midterm prospects.
She and her guests also downplayed the significance of the Capitol attack, and compared it to the recent arrest of an armed man near Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house.
"There wasn't a single serious person in D.C. who believed that Biden wasn't going to be sworn in as president on Jan. 20," Ingraham said.
PolitiFact staff writer Grace Abels contributed research to this article.
UPDATE, June 10, 9:45 p.m.: This story was updated to clarify that Carlson's dismissal of the attack as a "footnote" came during a previous show.
Fox News, "Tucker Carlson Tonight," June 9, 2022
Fox News, "Hannity," June 9, 2022
Fox News, "The Ingraham Angle," June 9, 2022
The Internet Archive, accessed June 9, 2022
The New York Times, "Fox News Doesn’t Plan to Carry Jan. 6 Hearings Live," June 7, 2022
The Washington Post, "Of course Fox News isn’t airing the Jan. 6 committee hearings," June 7, 2022
The New York Times, "New Evidence Undercuts Jan. 6 Instigator Conspiracy Theory," May 5, 2021
PolitiFact, "House hearings about the Jan. 6 insurrection begin this week. Here's what to watch," June 7, 2022
PolitiFact, "How new Jan. 6 revelations on Ray Epps, others undercut Tucker Carlson’s FBI conspiracy theory," Jan. 18, 2022
PolitiFact, "The 2021 Lie of the Year: Lies about the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and its significance," Dec. 15, 2021
PolitiFact, "Tucker Carlson’s ‘Patriot Purge’ film on Jan. 6 is full of falsehoods, conspiracy theories," Nov. 5, 2021
PolitiFact, "Tucker Carlson’s conspiracy theory about FBI and Jan. 6 continues to be wrong," Nov. 4, 2021
PolitiFact, "Jan. 6 defendants were armed with guns, other weapons, documents show," July 13, 2021
PolitiFact, "Fact-checking Donald Trump on there being 'no reason' for shooting Ashli Babbitt," July 8, 2021
PolitiFact, 'Tucker Carlson’s false claim downplaying role of white supremacists at Capitol riot," Feb. 23, 2021
Phone and email interviews with Aly Colón, professor of media ethics at Washington and Lee University, June 9, 2022