House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy engaged in a bit – actually more than a bit – of revisionist history about the riot at the US Capitol on January 6 during an interview with “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace over the weekend.
Asked specifically by Wallace whether former President Donald Trump had, as CNN has reported, told him in a phone call that the rioters cared more about the 2020 election than he did, McCarthy side-stepped, offering this:
“What I talked to President Trump about, I was the first person to contact him when the riots was going on. He didn’t see it. What he ended the call was saying – telling me, he’ll put something out to make sure to stop this. And that’s what he did, he put a video out later.”
Which is, uh, not exactly what happened. Here’s what did happen, via reporting in February from CNN’s Jamie Gangel, Kevin Liptak, Michael Warren and Marshall Cohen:
“Speaking to the President from inside the besieged Capitol, McCarthy pressed Trump to call off his supporters and engaged in a heated disagreement about who comprised the crowd. Trump’s comment about the would-be insurrectionists caring more about the election results than McCarthy did was first mentioned by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican from Washington state, in a town hall earlier this week, and was confirmed to CNN by Herrera Beutler and other Republicans briefed on the conversation.”
So, McCarthy is engaging in a massive bit of underplaying of that phone call. But he’s doing more, too.
He says Trump “didn’t see” the rioters overtaking the Capitol building. Which is very hard for me to believe, given that a) it was on EVERY cable channel as it was happening and b) Trump watches cable constantly. It is, of course, possible that he turned off cable TV on the day that the Electoral College results were being certified (and shortly after his headlining of the “Stop the Steal” rally in DC) but, man oh man, is it unlikely.
Then there’s McCarthy’s timeline. He told Wallace that Trump ended the phone call with him by insisting that “he’ll put something out to make sure to stop this. And that’s what he did, he put a video out later.”
Which, uh, not exactly.
Just after 4 p.m. on January 6, CNN’s Melissa Mahtani reported this:
“It’s been more than two hours since a chaotic mob of rioters surrounded and breached the Capitol. Despite many calls from both Republican and Democrats for President Trump to demand his supporters leave the Capitol building, the President has not yet done so.”
When Trump did finally issue a video telling rioters to disperse, it wasn’t exactly a forceful scolding. “I know your pain. I know your hurt. But you have to go home now,” Trump said in the video, adding: “We love you. You’re very special.”
McCarthy’s comments are part of a broader effort undertaken by Republicans in Congress to rewrite what happened on January 6 – and what role in and responsibility for the riot that the former President should bear. The likes of Rep. Mo Brooks, who has already won the endorsement of Trump for his Senate bid, has championed the fact-free idea that Antifa activists were the ones actually responsible for the riot. Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson has suggested – again without any proof – that Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed for the second impeachment of Trump to cover up for her role on January 6.
And remember that even AFTER the insurrection at the Capitol, almost 150 Republicans voted to object to the Electoral College results – despite zero evidence to back up Trump’s claims of fraud and theft.
McCarthy’s whitewashing of what happened on January 6, then, is a survival tactic for him. In a party in which untruth about the election and January 6 has run rampant, the only way for McCarthy to hold onto power is to tell you that what you saw and heard is not what you saw and heard.