GOP leadership uses Jan. 6 anniversary to dilute insurrection narrative

Over the weekend, a litany of GOP congressional members took to various media pulpits to propagate disinformation around the events of Jan. 6. Both mainstream outlets like CBS and fringe sources like the new “Tucker Carlson Network” addressed the anniversary of the insurrection as the upcoming 2024 election loomed.  

Several notable Republican leaders were brought on for comment, and each offered their own unique spin on one of the darkest days in American democracy. 

On “Meet the Press,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) — who once called Capitol rioters “anti-American” and a group that “must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law” — described key participants and organizers of Jan. 6 facing legal consequences as “hostages.”  

When asked by host Kristen Welker if those who “stormed the Capitol should be held responsible,” Stefanik maintained that she had “concerns about the treatment of Jan. 6 hostages, I have concerns- we have a role in Congress of oversight over our treatment of prisoners.”  

Stefanik, who has become a key Trump acolyte, went on to deploy another conservative talking point surrounding the insurrection when she disparaged the “weaponization of the federal government against not just President [Donald] Trump,” but against the Republican base. 

“We're seeing it against conservatives. We're seeing it against Catholics. And that's one of the reasons why I'm so proud to serve on the Select Committee on the Weaponization of the Government. Because the American people want answers.” 

She then proceeded to assert, with little pushback from Welker, that the biggest threat to American democracy was the “baseless witch hunt investigations and lawsuits against President Trump.” 

Meanwhile, House Speaker Mike Johnson chose a different route when asked about the anniversary. When pressed about his role in the fake elector scheme which coincided with Jan. 6, Johnson, who was crucial in trying to subvert the results of the 2020 election, dodged the questions asked by “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan. 

When Jan. 6 came up, Brennan had asked how Johnson responded to his one-time contemporary, Liz Cheney, critiquing his participation in the scheme. 

“No, I– I don't spend much time responding to Liz Cheney's criticism these days,” Johnson responded. “Liz Cheney worked with the Democrats on the Jan. 6 — Jan. 6 Select Committee to — to make all of this even more politicized than it was.”

Johnson then went on to slyly maintain that the results of the 2020 election were invalid: “What happened in many states by changing the election laws without ratification by the state legislatures is a violation of the Constitution. That's a — that's a plain fact that no one can dispute,” he concluded. 

But the most unhinged response to the Jan. 6 anniversary came, unsurprisingly, from an interview conducted by Tucker Carlson, who spoke with Johnson’s compatriot, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA). Higgins invoked one of the more pernicious conspiracies surrounding the insurrection, which is that the FBI and the “deep state” created the conditions for the riot on purpose so as to delegitimize Trump and his supporters. 

“Their objective was to destroy the entire MAGA movement. To forever stain the patriotic fervor that was associated with the America First MAGA movement that had won in 2016 and we believe won again in 2020,” Higgins told Carlson. 

“The establishment on both sides of both major parties were determined to smash that out of existence, not just by defeating Trump, but by destroying the reputations of the movement itself.”

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Jamie Larson