The White House slammed Tucker Carlson on Wednesday for spreading lies about the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot ― joining a growing number of voices in denouncing the Fox News host’s efforts to misrepresent the insurrection on his prime-time show.
Carlson has been under fire from Democrats, Republican Senate leaders and the Capitol Police chief after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) gave the influential far-right host exclusive access to tens of thousands of hours of Jan. 6 surveillance footage.
Carlson used select footage to misrepresent the attack as nothing more than a group of supporters of then-President Donald Trump paying a calm tourist visit to the U.S. Capitol. In reality, Trump incited his followers to violently storm the building in an attempt to keep him in power, and rioters injured about 140 officers while searching for lawmakers to attack.
A number of Senate Republicans quickly decried Carlson’s misrepresentation of the events of Jan. 6. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said the host’s portrayal of Jan. 6 was “bullshit,” and Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said the day “was clearly more than a peaceful protest of some rowdy Boy Scouts.” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) criticized McCarthy for releasing the video to Carlson, though the House speaker defended his decision on Tuesday.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made a rare denunciation of Fox News on Tuesday, saying the network made a “mistake” in showing the cherry-picked footage to paint a different reality. McConnell’s comments echoed those of Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger, who earlier this week called Carlson’s show “misleading and offensive.”
“We agree with the chief of the Capitol Police and the wide range of bipartisan lawmakers who have condemned this false depiction of the unprecedented, violent attack on our Constitution and the rule of law ― which cost police officers their lives,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates told HuffPost on Wednesday, after Politico first published its report.
The White House’s decision to specifically call out Carlson ― who has been criticized in the past for spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories about women, people of color and immigrants ― suggests increased tension between the Biden administration and the conservative cable network.
In his statement, Bates cited a case where Fox News’ own lawyers tried defending Carlson against accusations of slander in 2020 by arguing that viewers should not take the host’s commentary as fact.
The spokesman also cited the $1.6 billion defamation case filed by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News, where a senior vice president at the network testified that he himself does not consider Carlson’s show to be a credible source of news.
“We also agree with what Fox News’s own attorneys and executives have now repeatedly stressed in multiple courts of law,” Bates said, “that Tucker Carlson is not credible.”