Tucker Carlson’s ‘baseless conspiracy theory’ about the Jan. 6 rioters has been forcefully debunked

Tucker Carlson’s ‘baseless conspiracy theory’ about the Jan. 6 rioters has been forcefully debunked

January 6, 2021 was among the most horrifying days in U.S. history — a day in which a violent mob of far-right insurrectionists attacked the U.S. Capitol Build in the hope of preventing Congress from certifying now-President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over their idol, then-President Donald Trump. Yet Tucker Carlson and other far-right Fox News hosts have not only been apologists for the January 6 coup attempt, but also, pushed the nonsense conspiracy theory that some of the rioters were really leftist Antifa members. Washington Post opinion writer Aaron Blake examines some of Carlson’s January 6-related claims in his December 10 column, explaining why they are so ludicrous and detached from reality.

“From basically the moment the January 6 Capitol insurrection concluded, supporters of Donald Trump have sought to pitch the event as a ‘false flag’ — and ultimately even some kind of government conspiracy,” Blake explains. “It looked bad, after all, to have allies who believed Trump’s bogus stolen-election claims resort to violence and chant about killing (then-Vice President) Mike Pence while marauding through the halls of Congress. So, for 11 months, the likes of Tucker Carlson and conspiratorially-minded members of Congress such as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) have sought evidence in support of that conclusion. It continues to go poorly.”

In his column, Blake draws heavy on an article by journalist Ryan J. Reilly that HuffPost published on December 9. Blake, describing Reilly’s article as a “must-read piece,” discusses the claims of attorney Joseph McBride, who has represented some of the January 6 defendants.

McBride’s conspiracy theory is that some of the Capitol rioters were really government provocateurs who wanted to make Trump and the MAGA movement look bad. Appearing on Carlson’s show on December 6, Blake notes, McBride “proceeded to highlight one specific supposed agent provocateur, who stood out because he was wearing red face paint.”

“McBride describes the red-faced man as ‘clearly a law enforcement officer,’” Blake writes. “His evidence? On video, the man ‘interacts with uniformed personnel.’ McBride has said the man was also passing out things that could be used as weapons…. A journalist at this point might have asked for some more compelling evidence…. But Carlson was impressed with a theory that confirmed his priors.”

Reilly, Blake notes, has shed light on who the man wearing red face paint on January 6 was.

“He reported that the red-faced man is actually something of a minor local celebrity in St. Louis known as the ‘Rally Runner,’” Blake writes. “The Rally Runner is known for sprinting around Busch Stadium during St. Louis Cardinals baseball games. He even does so wearing the same red face paint. The Rally Runner also happens to be a big fan of Carlson’s show and was visited by the FBI shortly after the Capitol riot, apparently thanks in part to posting regularly on social media about it. And in a twist, he has also promoted the idea that the Capitol riot was a ‘setup.’”

According to Blake, “The pièce de résistance involves McBride’s response to Reilly. When pressed on his claims, McBride stated that he was representing his client and didn’t ‘need to be right’ in all his claims. ‘If I’m wrong, so be it, bro. I don’t care,’ he said. ‘I don’t give a shit about being wrong.’ That last quote should perhaps be the new motto for those most forcefully pushing this baseless conspiracy theory.”

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