Millions of Americans watched the events in Washington on January 6 on live television. Police officers testified about the violence and chaos. Criminal proceedings in open court detailed what happened.
Yet hoaxes, conspiracy theories and attempts to rewrite history persist, blurring the public’s understanding of what really happened in the most sustained attack on the seat of American democracy since the United States. war of 1812.
By excusing former President Donald Trump’s responsibility, downplaying mob violence, and martyring rioters, the insurgency lies are aimed at deflecting responsibility from January 6 while supporting Trump’s baseless claims about the free and fair 2020 elections he lost.
Spread by politicians, broadcast by cable news experts and amplified by social media, the lies are a stark reminder of how many Americans may no longer trust their own institutions or their own eyes.
Several different conspiracy theories emerged in the year since the insurgency, according to an online content analysis conducted by media intelligence firm Zignal Labs on behalf of the Associated Press. Unfounded claims that the rioters were members of antifa first went viral, before being overtaken by a baseless claim accusing FBI agents. Other theories say the rioters were peaceful and were charged with crimes that never happened.
Conspiracy theories have long lurked in the background of American history, said Dustin Carnahan, a professor at Michigan State University who studies political disinformation. But they can become dangerous when they make people distrust democracy or condone or embrace violence.
âIf we don’t operate on the same fact basis anymore, then it will be much more difficult to have conversations as a country,â Carnahan said. “It will fuel more divisions in our country, and I think that’s ultimately the legacy of disinformation that we are seeing right now.”
A review of some of the main lies about the Capitol Riot and the people who spread them:
ALLEGATION: THE RIOTS WERE NOT TRUMP SUPPORTERS
In fact, many of those who came to Capitol Hill on January 6 have said – proudly, publicly, on several occasions – that they did so to help the then president.
Different versions of the claim suggest that they were FBI agents or members of the anti-fascist anti-Fa movement.
âEarlier today, the Capitol was under siege by people who can only be described as antithetical to the MAGA movement,â Laura Ingraham said on her Fox News show the night of January 6, referring to Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again”. “They probably weren’t all Trump supporters, and there are reports that antifa supporters may have been scattered throughout the crowd.”
The next day, Ingraham acknowledged the inaccuracy when she tweeted a link to a story debunking the claim.
Another Fox host, Tucker Carlson, spread the idea that the FBI had orchestrated the riot. He cites as evidence the indictments of some January 6 suspects that mention unindicted co-conspirators, a common legal term that simply refers to suspects who have not been charged, and not agent evidence. infiltrators or informers.
Yet Carlson said on his show that “in all cases they were potentially FBI agents.”
Carlson is a “primary driver” of the idea that Jan. 6 was perpetrated by government agents, according to Zignal’s report. He found that the claim had increased in October when Carlson released a documentary series on the insurgency.
Members of Congress, including Representative Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Helped spread theories.
“Some of the people who raped the Capitol today were not Trump supporters, they were posing as Trump supporters and, in fact, were members of the violent anti-fa terrorist group,” Gaetz said.
Spokesmen for Carlson and Gaetz say they are upholding their demands.
In truth, the rioters are exactly what they said they were.
One was a newly elected state lawmaker from West Virginia, a Republican Trump supporter named Derrick Evans who resigned after his arrest. Evans released a video of himself illegally entering the Capitol.
“They’re now making an announcement that if Pence betrays us you better think twice because we’re storming the building,” Evans said on the video. “The door is cracked!” â¦ We are in, we are in! Derrick Evans is on Capitol Hill! Vice President Mike Pence was in the building to preside over the Senate certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s electoral victory. Pence has moved ahead despite calls from Trump for Pence to block the transfer of power.
During testimony before Congress, FBI Director Christopher Wray was asked if there was any reason to believe the insurgency was staged by “bogus Trump protesters.”
âWe haven’t seen any evidence of this,â said Wray, who was appointed by Trump.
ALLEGATION: THE RIOTS WERE NOT VIOLENT
Dozens of police officers were seriously injured. A Capitol Police officer who was attacked and assaulted with bear spray suffered a stroke and died a day later of natural causes.
Former Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, who rushed to the scene, said he was “caught, beaten, teased, while being called a traitor to my country”. The assault stopped only when he said he had children. He later learned that he had suffered a heart attack. Fanone resigned from the department in December 2021.
Rioters broke into the Senate chamber minutes after the senators fled under armed protection. They searched desks and searched for lawmakers, shouting, âWhere are they? In the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, staff members hid under desks as rioters called out the California Democrat’s name.
This is not how some Republican politicians have described the insurgency.
Appearing on Ingraham’s show in May, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Said he condemned the Capitol violation as well as violence, but said it was wrong to call it an insurgency .
“Overall it was a peaceful protest except there were a number of people, mostly agitators, who whipped the crowd and breached the Capitol,” Johnson said.
Johnson has since said he doesn’t want the violent actions of a few being used to attack everyone.
Representative Andrew Clyde, after watching video footage of rioters marching through the Capitol, said it looked like a “normal sightseeing visit.” Other video evidence from January 6 showed Clyde, R-Ga., Helping to barricade the doors of the house in an attempt to prevent rioters from entering.
Trump called the insurgency a demonstration of “spirit, faith and love.”
Rioters also smashed windows and doors, stole items from offices and caused damage estimated at $ 1.5 million. Outside the Capitol, someone installed a gallows with a noose.
“The idea that this was somehow a tourist event is shameful and despicable,” Representative Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Said in May. “And, you know, I won’t participate in the laundering of what happened on January 6th.” No one should be a part of it. And people should be held accountable.
ALLEGATION: TRUMP DID NOT ENCOURAGE RIOTS
Trump may now want to downplay his involvement, but he has spent months drumming a constant drum of conspiracy theory and grievance, urging his supporters to fight to somehow bring him back to power.
âBig protest in Washington on January 6,â Trump tweeted on December 19, 2020. âBe there, it will be wild!â
Just before the mob stormed the Capitol, Trump spoke for over an hour, telling his supporters they were “cheated” and “swindled” in the election “rigged” by a “criminal enterprise” Which included lawmakers who were now meeting in the Capitol.
At one point, Trump urged his supporters to “make your voice heard in a peaceful and patriotic manner.” The rest of his speech was filled with hostile rhetoric.
âWe are fighting. We are fighting like hell,â he told those who would later infiltrate the Capitol. âAnd if you don’t fight like hell, you will no longer have a country. . “
Now Trump says he has nothing to do with the riot.
âI wasn’t involved in this, and if you look at my words and what I said in the speech, they were actually extremely calming,â Trump said on Fox News in December.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe Trump bears some responsibility for the Capitol violation, according to a poll conducted last year by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
ALLEGATION: ASHLI BABBITT WAS KILLED BY AN OFFICER WORKING FOR DEMOCRATS
Babbitt died after being shot in the shoulder by a Capitol Police lieutenant as she and others pressured to enter the President’s lobby outside of the House chamber.
Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran, was unarmed. An investigation cleared the officer of wrongdoing.
The Capitol Police Department protects all members of Congress, as well as Capitol Hill employees, the public, and facilities. The officer was not assigned to any particular legislator.
Trump falsely claimed that the officer was the security chief “of a certain senior official, a Democrat” and that he was immune from all liability. He also distorted the place where Babbitt was shot.
“Who is the person who shotâ¦ an innocent, wonderful, incredible woman, a military woman, right in the head?” Trump asked on Fox News.
CLAIM: JAN. 6 SUSPECTS ARE POLITICAL PRISONERS AND ARE ABUSED
No, they are not, despite some claims from members of Congress.
“The J6 defendants are political prisoners of war,” Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., Tweeted in November. She said she visited suspects in prison who complained about the food, medical treatment and “re-education” they were receiving in detention.
Representative Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, said the Justice Department is “harassing peaceful patriots” while investigating their involvement in the insurgency.
While it is true that some of the suspects complained about their time in prison, it is wrong to claim that they are being held as political prisoners. Authorities said suspects in custody had the same access to food and medical care as any other detainee.
One of the most notorious rioters, Jacob Chansley, known as QAnon Shaman, was given organic food in his prison cell after complaining about food options.