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Meadows's texts show Trump supporters workshopping January 6 lies during Capitol attack
Antifa didn’t show up, but Republicans got busy trying to blame them anyway.
The right-wing echo chamber has spent nearly 17 months trying to reframe the January 6 attack on Congress as an inside job, the fault of Nancy Pelosi, the work of antifa, or really anything other than what it actually was — an attack on Congress incited by Trump, perpetrated by Trump supporters, and representing a last-ditch attempt to effectively end US democracy to install a racist former gameshow host as dictator.
The most recent revelations from the House committee investigating the attack provide fascinating insight into the origins of Trumpworld’s campaign of lies. A new batch of texts shows Trump supporters brainstorming to rewrite history in real time, and planting the seeds for a year-plus of gaslighting.
According to texts to and from Mark Meadows (published Monday by CNN and representing the entire tranche of messages Meadows turned over to the January 6 committee), on the same day Trump supporters ransacked the Capitol, Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller, Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Louie Gohmert, and Trump’s aide and son-in-law Jared Kusher all texted Meadows with evidence-free ideas about how blame could be shifted to antifa.
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“Call me crazy, but ideas for two tweets from POTUS: 1) Bad apples, likely ANTIFA or other crazed leftists, infiltrated today's peaceful protest over the fraudulent vote count,” Miller wrote at 3:45 p.m., as the Capitol was under attack. “The fake news media who encouraged this summer's violent and radical riots are now trying to blame peaceful and innocent MAGA supporters for violent actions.”
Greene added that “we think they are Antifa.” Gohmert chimed in that “Cap Police told me last night they'd been warned that today there'd be a lot of Antifa dressed in red Trump shirts & hats & would likely get violent … well [sic] get to the bottom of what group they're with.” Kushner, for his part, suggested posting to Facebook “since he isn’t locked out there.”
Here are the full texts:
After a brief period in which some Republican leaders rightfully accused Trump of being responsible for the attack on the Capitol, this spin almost immediately became the party line.
As I detailed back in December, when the first batch of Meadows text messages was released, a number of prominent Fox News personalities were texting Meadows and urging him to get Trump to call off his supporters. That very same day, they went on the air and — echoing the suggestions in Meadows’s inbox — baselessly accused unnamed left-wing agitators and antifa activists of fomenting the violence.
Meadows’s text messages don’t contain a shred of evidence that elected Republicans or Fox News personalities really thought anyone other than Trump supporters was to blame. On the contrary, the new batch shows House Republicans and Donald Trump Jr. blowing up Meadows’s phone on January 6 and pleading with him to get Trump to do something, anything, to get the situation under control. They knew who was really responsible.
As absurd as it may be, the Trumpworld spin proved effective among MAGA-base voters eager to have their priors confirmed. As Amanda Marcotte noted this week in Salon, “in the weeks after the Capitol insurrection, about half of Republican voters were espousing some version of the ‘antifa did it, the MAGAs were peaceful’ conspiracy theory.” Trump and his supporters have since come to regard the insurrection as a rightful expression of anger over a stolen election (never mind that no evidence of election fraud ever emerged), but the antifa conspiracy was a useful way to invert the Trump coup attempt into something that could be used a a cudgel against the left.
Fox News ignores a major news story involving prominent network personalities
The new Meadows text revelations obviously speak extremely poorly of Fox News — one exchange even shows Sean Hannity texting with Meadows on election day and asking him what he can say on his shows that will help Trump. So, unsurprisingly, they’re almost completely ignoring the story (and most news out of the J6 inquiry) and are instead talking nonstop about Hunter Biden. They don’t want their viewers to know what members of the Fox/GOP echo chamber were candidly saying to each other about the insurrection, because it undercuts the lies and spin they’ve been peddling ever since.
From around the time CNN published the latest batch of Meadows texts on Monday through late Wednesday morning, they were mentioned a total of four times on Fox News and Fox Business programming. Not only were these mentions very brief, they were misleading. A 30-second news hit on Shannon Bream’s show, for instance, ended by uncritically mentioning that Gohmert is “doubling down on the suggestion that the Capitol rioters were really members of a left-wing group, antifa.” The reality that this evidence-free suggestion is absurd was conveniently left unsaid.
Hunter Biden, by contrast, was mentioned on Fox News/Business a whopping 140 times over the same timeframe. In that alternate universe, a real life coup attempt involving some of the most prominent Fox anchors is a non-story, but the business dealings of the president’s son (who isn’t and has never been a public official) is the next Watergate.
Meanwhile, influential Trumpworld figures like Tucker Carlson and Matt Gaetz have their knives out for Kevin McCarthy for the sin of briefly considering taking a stand for democracy in the days following January 6. After new audio emerged this week of McCarthy advising his fellow Republicans to turn down the rhetorical temperature — he singled out Gaetz by name — Gaetz responded with a statement calling McCarthy “sniveling” and “weak.” Carlson blasted him as “a puppet of the Dem Party.”
McCarthy has spent the past 17 months toeing the party line by trying to shift blame for the insurrection and lying about his lies. Even that apparently isn’t enough. The people who are getting purged are the ones who were bothered by the Trump coup attempt, not those who were cooking up false justifications for it in real time. It’s a reminder that the Republican Party is radicalized and getting worse.
That’s it for this week!
I’ll be back with more Monday. In the meantime, have a great weekend.