A majority of American voters agree with Tucker Carlson that the events of the January 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol were less violent than have been portrayed by the media.
According to exclusive polling for Newsweek by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, 69 percent of American adults believe the incident was less violent than reported, with just 26 percent saying it was more violent.
The Fox News host described those involved in the riot—in which supporters of then-U.S. President Donald Trump attempted to disrupt the certification of the election of Joe Biden—as “sightseers” earlier in March, as Carlson reproduced CCTV footage from the day that he was granted access to by Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Carlson argued that the footage “demolishes” the narrative that a riot took place and claimed, without evidence, this was “exactly why the Democratic Party and its allies in the media prevented you from seeing it.”
However, Carlson drew criticism from Democrats and Republicans, including GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who described the program as “a mistake.” Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said it was “dangerous” to suggest attacking the Capitol was anything less than a serious crime.
Five people died during or in the aftermath of the event, including Ashli Babbitt, one of the protesters, who was shot by a police officer.
Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger accused Carlson of cherry-picking non-violent footage to fit his “offensive and misleading” narrative, reproducing just a small selection of more than 40,000 hours of video.
Fox News told Newsweek that following the airing of the program, Carlson’s show saw a spike in viewers, suggesting the narrative he was giving and the attention it received was attractive to some.
According to the poll of 1,500 U.S. adults, conducted on March 20, nearly half supported Carlson’s statement that the events on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, were “mostly peaceful,” with 24 percent strongly agreeing and the same number agreeing.
The number of people who agreed was slightly higher among those who voted for Donald Trump in 2020 than Joe Biden voters, and tended to be higher among those age 44 or under. The results of the survey were weighted according to the demography of the U.S. and by the results of the 2020 election.
Fifty-one percent said that the events of January 6 had been misleadingly portrayed by the media, while 31 percent said the incident had been accurately depicted.
Newsweek reached out to a Fox News spokesperson via email for comment.
Included in the footage reproduced by Carlson was that of Jacob Chansley—who became known as the QAnon Shaman for his elaborate dress on the day—walking around the building unhindered.
Chansley, who was sentenced to 41 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of obstructing an official proceeding, struck a plea deal after being indicted on six charges. The surveillance footage called into question the extent to which he had been violent in his intrusion into the Capitol.
Carlson said that a Capitol Police officer “helped him” around the building and “acted as his tour guides.” A spokesperson for the force told Newsweek that a “violent group of people fought through multiple police lines” and that the officer who eventually followed Chansley into the Senate chamber was “vastly outnumbered.”
Following the January 6 uprising, questions were asked about how the Capitol Police had been so easily overwhelmed. The force admitted it had operational issues, but said it had taken “significant steps” to improve. Many officers involved have been lionized by lawmakers, receiving medals for their actions.
According to the poll, a massive 72 percent of respondents said they thought all the security camera footage from the January 6 insurrection should be released to the public.
In the 26 months since the incident took place, around 1,000 people have been arrested over their alleged involvement, and 326 people have been charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers or employees, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said on March 6.
More than half of those arrested have pleaded guilty to various charges, and the DOJ said many will face prison time. Seventy-two were convicted at trial, and about 420 have been sentenced.
Among those surveyed, the largest group—34 percent—believed those involved in the uprising should be referred to as protesters, with the next largest, 31 percent, calling them rioters.