It’s been nearly a year since a mob, incited by President Donald Trump’s lies of widespread voter fraud, attacked the U.S. Capitol hoping to stop the certification of the Electoral College vote and deny Joe Biden the presidency he legitimately won.
In the months since, apologists for the twice-impeached Trump, led by Fox News, have either minimized the attack or deflected responsibility from him.
But text messages released this week by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 events show that as the violence unfolded that day, some of the network’s biggest stars were as shaken and frightened as everyone else. The texts were among the 9,000 pages of documents Mark Meadows, former chief of staff for Trump, turned over to the committee. After giving up that treasure trove of information, Meadows stopped cooperating with the committee, moving the House to vote in favor of holding him in contempt of Congress.
In real time, as they texted Meadows, the Trump acolytes at Fox knew who was responsible for the riot and who could possibly end it.
“Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol,” Sean Hannity texted.
“Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home,” Laura Ingraham wrote. “This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.”
An aside, who is “us” exactly? Certainly Ingraham isn’t referring to all Americans and democracy.
“Please, get him on TV,” begged Brian Kilmeade. “Destroying everything you have accomplished.”
Despite what they now say on the air, back on Jan. 6, in private, they knew the president could stop a mob he had incited.
Donald Trump Jr. was also panicking. “He’s got to condemn this s—t Asap,” he texted Meadows. “The Capitol Police tweet is not enough. We need an Oval office address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”
Another aside, Trump Jr.’s tweets offer unintentional insight into a father-son relationship in which the son had to use a middleman to communicate with his father that he should stop a riot. More importantly, along with the tweets of the Fox News personalities, they echo the hypocrisy of Republican members of Congress who, during the siege of the Capitol were scared for their lives, but afterwards claimed it was no big deal.
These include House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who made frantic calls to Trump on Jan. 6 for him to intervene, but who is now a shield and shill for the former president. And it includes U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., who, weeks after the attacks, compared the rioters to tourists despite photos showing a rattled Clyde helping to barricade House chambers against the “tourists.”
Despite the attempts of Trump supporters at Fox, in Congress and within his family to rewrite the disturbing events of Jan. 6, the record is clear they saw what we all saw that day and were united in fear with the rest of us — or most of us — about the attack on the Capitol.
As it happened, they witnessed a mob, inflamed by the lies from the president, attempt to use violence to overturn an election and the will of the American people. While they quickly pivoted to edit and revise the first draft of their immediate responses, that’s a history that can’t be rewritten.
Not when we now have the original documentation of those responses in the form of text messages.
• Express-News editorial board via The Associated Press