NEW YORK (AFP) – American conservative media has played down the gravity of the storming of the United States Capitol by a mob supporting outgoing US President Donald Trump, citing anger at the establishment and accusing the hard left – without proof – of having infiltrated the crowd.
Trump supporters broke into Congress as a session was being held on Wednesday (Jan 6) to certify US President-elect Joe Biden’s November election win, triggering unprecedented chaos and violence at the heart of American democracy, as well as accusations that the president was attempting a coup.
Since his defeat, Mr Trump has claimed the election was rigged against him, but has offered no substantive evidence. None of the nearly three dozen lawsuits his campaign has filed challenging the results has been successful.
Besides Fox News, new ultra-conservative outlets battling to nibble market share from the television news behemoth sought to dissociate Trump supporters from the chaos in Congress.
The demonstrators “pushed and shoved but for the most part, that was about it”, said Mr Kevin Corke, a Fox News reporter.
“Most of what we saw was beautiful today,” said Mr Ben Bergquam, a reporter for the small online channel Real America’s Voice, on Wednesday.
Deflecting the blame
Outlets including Real America’s Voice, Newsmax and the One America News Network (OAN) – which Mr Trump has recommended several times in recent weeks – claimed without any evidence that the crowd had been infiltrated by small ultra-left groups.
“I think they were undercover Antifa,” Ms Gina Loudon, presenter for Real America’s Voice, said of the rioters she encountered on Wednesday in the corridors of the Capitol.
Antifa is a mostly unstructured group of left-wing activists who are frequently denounced as violent troublemakers by Mr Trump and his supporters.
Mr Pat Fallon, a Republican in the House of Representatives, told Newsmax “we don’t even know who was on the other side of those doors” among the rioters.
While denouncing the violence committed in the precincts of Congress, Mr Greg Kelly of Newsmax said it nonetheless followed a certain logic.
“If you steal an election”, he explained, echoing Mr Trump’s discredited accusations, “there are going to be a lot of angry people”.
“There’s a reason this is happening,” said Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson. “It is happening because the people with all the power have decided to clamp down so harshly on the population that things explode at a certain point.”
For Mr Eric Greitens of Real America’s Voice, the forced interruption to debates in Congress on Wednesday “gives the president a few more days to demonstrate that there has been fraud”. Others denounced the reaction of the mainstream media.
“They are going to say that all the Trump supporters are violent,” said Mr Grant Stinchfield of Newsmax.
“I just wish they would have denounced the fact that so many cities have been damaged” during the spring protests against racism, he added.
With Fox’s Sean Hannity in the lead, many commentators highlighted the outgoing President’s appeals for calm on Twitter – though they were launched after the President had urged supporters to march on the Capitol and allowed the situation to escalate.