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Not long after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton addressed a large "Save America" rally of Trump loyalists outside the White House on Wednesday, they marched on the Capitol and breached the building as Congress sought to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
But Paxton had his own ideas about the mob carrying pro-Trump flags and signs.
On Thursday morning, he took to Facebook to advance a conspiracy theory that the people who overtook the Capitol were not Trump supporters, but members of antifa.
"Those who stormed the capitol yesterday were not Trump supporters. They have been confirmed to be Antifa," Paxton wrote. "Violence is not the answer."
Paxton’s post cited two sources: a screenshot of a tweet by right-wing journalist Paul Sperry and a screenshot of a Washington Times article with the headline, "Facial recognition firm claims antifa infiltrated Trump protestors who stormed capitol."
On Wednesday, as Capitol Hill police removed the rioters from the Capitol, Paxton published something similar. People who stormed the building following a Trump rally "are not Trump supporters," he tweeted, citing the screenshot of Sperry’s tweet.
"BREAKING: Former F.B.I. agent on the ground at U.S. Capitol just texted me and confirmed that at least 1 ‘bus load’ of Antifa thugs infiltrated peaceful demonstrators as part of a false Trump flag ops," Sperry’s tweet reads.
Sperry's tweet has since been deleted. Sperry, a former Washington bureau chief for Investor's Business Daily, has authored several anti-Muslim books with titles like, "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington," and "Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America." He has not responded to questions sent to him via email.
Paxton’s second source alleging that Wednesday’s mob is "confirmed to be Antifa," the Washington Times article, was published about 8:15 p.m. Wednesday by news and opinion writer Rowan Scarborough. The story sources an unnamed "retired military officer" who told the Times "that the firm XRVision used its software to do facial recognition of protesters and matched two Philadelphia Antifa members to two men inside the Senate."
The newspaper has since retracted the report, but not before Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, cited it later that day on the House floor, saying that "some of the people who breached the Capitol today were not Trump supporters, they were masquerading as Trump supporters and were in fact members of the violent terrorist group antifa."
XRVision, a facial recognition technology company based in Singapore, issued a statement to PolitiFact and BuzzFeed News Thursday morning saying that the company sent the Washington Times a cease and desist letter asking it to retract the story and issue an apology. XRVision’s software identified two members of a Neo-Nazi organization and a Q-Anon supporter, not members of antifa. The company said it distributed that imagery to a handful of individuals for private consumption only.
The company said it does not know the identity of the "retired military officer" who gave the Washington Times the information it based its report on.
"XRVision takes pride in its technology's precision and deems the Washington Times publication as outright false, misleading, and defamatory," the company said in its statement.
The Times issued a correction to the story at around 5:30 p.m. Thursday after an inquiry from PolitiFact, saying that "The Washington Times erroneously reported late Wednesday that facial recognition technology backed up that speculation and identified two Antifa members. In fact, XRVision has not identified any members of that far-left movement as being part of the attack."
Paxton's office did not respond to a request for comment.
As Wednesday’s events turned chaotic, Trump himself identified the mob as his own supporters in a video posted to Twitter, where he asked them to disperse peacefully, adding, "We love you. You’re very special."
One of the rioters identified in multiple photographs, Jake Angeli, also known as the "Q Shaman," easily spotted in his horned fur cap, rebuffed allegations that he was a masquerading member of antifa.
"I am not antifa or (Black Lives Matter). I am a Qanon & digital soldier," Angeli posted to Twitter.
Others recorded videos from inside the Capitol, identifying themselves as patriots, including Jenny Cudd, a former Midland mayoral candidate who said she broke into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office.
She told the Midland Reporter-Telegram, without offering evidence, that antifa activists broke through Capitol barriers and assaulted police officers before she arrived.
Paxton published two social media posts following Wednesday’s pro-Trump riot at Capitol Hill saying that the rioters were not Trump supporters, but antifa.
Paxton based his claim on two sources — a deleted tweet and a retracted Washington Times article. Beyond those dubious sources, there’s no evidence showing that those who stormed the capitol were antifa.
We rate Paxton’s claim Pants on Fire.
Georgetown University, Factsheet: Paul Sperry, May 14, 2021
Washington Times, Facial recognition firm claims antifa infiltrated Trump protestors who stormed capitol, Jan. 6, 2021
Tweet, Jan. 6, 2021
Facebook post, Jan. 7, 2021
BuzzFeed News, A Facial Recognition Company Says That Viral Washington Times "Antifa" Story Is False, Jan. 7, 2021
THE ILLUSTRATED PRIMER, Statement About The Washington Times False Claim thatXRVision Detected Antifa in the Capital Building Riots, Jan. 7, 2021
PolitiFact, No, facial recognition didn’t confirm antifa infiltrated Trump supporters at the Capitol, Jan. 7, 2021
Tweet, Jan. 6, 2021
PolitiFact, Face-painted man in horned fur cap at Capitol riot supports Trump and QAnon, not antifa, Jan. 7, 2021
Email, Washington Times Media, Jan. 7, 2021
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