- Republican lawmakers and conservative news personalities, including on Fox News, are fanning the flames of an evidence-free theory that “antifa” helped storm the Capitol on Wednesday.
- A mob of Trump supporters had entered the building, destroyed property, and entered people’s offices.
- It led to lawmakers being evacuated from a joint session of Congress and the death of four people.
- But GOP figures like Rep. Matt Gaetz, Rep. Paul Gosar, and Rep. Mo Brooks are claiming that antifa was involved, spreading a theory shared hundreds of thousands of times online.
- The FBI has described antifa as an ideology, not a specific organisation.
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Republican lawmakers, Fox News opinon personalities, and President Donald Trump supporters are helping to baselessly lay the blame for the Wednesday storming of the US Capitol on “antifa.”
Trump supporters entered the building on Wednesday after being stirred up by the president. They broke windows, entered congressional officers, and destroyed government property. It led to lawmakers being evacuated, a standoff on the Senate floor, and the death of four people.
The attack took place after Trump addressed his supporters, repeating his baseless claims that he won the 2020 presidential election and telling them to go to the Capitol. The rioters livestreamed their actions, carried Trump flags, and wore Trump merchandise.
But right-wing personalities and Trump’s supporters are claiming a different scenario, without any evidence.
They blamed “antifa,” which the FBI last year deemed an ideology, rather than a specific organisation.
Trump has used antifa as a boogeyman, and he and his supporters also blamed antifa â€” which stands for anti-fascist â€” for the widespread Black Lives Matter protests sparked last summer and continued throughout the year.
Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a Republican and staunch Trump ally, said in a speech in Congress after the storming that “some of the people who breached the Capitol today were not Trump supporters. They were masquerading as Trump supporters and in fact, were members of the violent terrorist group antifa.”
He later spread the theory on Twitter, and retweeted a post that called his speech “the speech of the day.”
Gaetz was citing an article in the Washington Times, which claimed that a retired military officer said facial-recognition software from a company called XRVision had been used to connect two men who were with the protesters with antifa â€” the first because he had a “Stalinist” tattoo, and the second because he had been seen at Black Lives Matter protests in the past.
But there are a number of problems with his theory:
- XRVision told BuzzFeed News that the Washington Times story about it is false.
- As Insider’s Charles Davis noted, Jake Angeli, the man who was pictured at the Black Lives Matter protest, was there because he was actually protesting those protests, and is not part of Antifa.
- Mashable noted that the tattoo on the other man was actually from a video-game logo, and there is evidence that he connects with extreme right-wing ideas.
- There is also the fact that both Trump and his supporters have been preparing to challenge the election results on January 6 for months, and that plans for the attack were circulating on social media in the days before.
But Gaetz is not alone in the theory.
Rep. Mo Brooks, a Republican from Atlanta, said on Fox News on Wednesday night: “There is some indication that fascist antifa elements were involved, that they embedded themselves in the Trump protests.”
Rep. Paul Gosar, a Republican in Arizona, also tweeted: “This has all the hallmarks of antifa provocation.”
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Republican Shannon Grove, the minority leader of the California State Senate, tweeted: “Patriots don’t act like this! This was Antifa,” before deleting her tweet.
Posts alleging antifa involvement in the storming of the Capitol have been shared hundreds of thousands of times on Facebook and Twitter, The New York Times reported.
Fox News opinion personalities and right-wing media also got involved in helping peddle the false claim.
As The Washington Post noted, Fox News host Laura Ingraham also alluded to the idea that protesters had been infiltrated, saying on Wednesday that the rioters “were likely not all Trump supporters.”
She said that both “members of the Trump support organisations and antifa threatening to show up at the same time” in Washington, DC.
Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume also tweeted on Wednesday that people should “not be surprised if we learn in the days ahead that the Trump rioters were infiltrated by leftist extremists.”
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Other Fox News personalities also have baselessly speculated that not everyone present at the Capitol attack were Trump supporters.
According to The Post, “Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade said: “I do not know Trump supporters that have ever demonstrated violence that I know of in a big situation,” while host Sean Hannity said he wanted to know who the “agitators” were and that “those who truly support President Trump â€¦ do not support those that commit acts of violence.”
The right-wing outlet Gateway Pundit claimed that a former FBI agent said at “least one ‘bus load’ of Antifa thugs infiltrated peaceful Trump demonstrators as part of a false Trump flag ops.” There is no evidence suggesting this.
And MyPillow founder Mike Lindell, a prominent Trump supporter, baselessly claimed on the Trump-friendly news outlet Newsmax that “there were probably some undercover antifa people that dressed as Trump people” at the Capitol.
Tom Basile, an anchor at Newsmax, also peddled the unfounded claim, saying: “We have seen antifa, we have seen Black Lives Matter, we have seen other leftist groups that have tried to stir up violence.”
Many Trump administration officials have resigned from their positions in the wake of Wednesday’s riot.
Facebook has also suspended Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts until the end of his presidency, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying the firm believes the “risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.”
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