CNN anchor Phil Mattingly on Friday dedicated a biting segment to the reality of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“Tomorrow will mark three years since thousands of Americans, lied to by the president of the United States and their elected representatives, perpetrated an assault on the building that has come to symbolize democracy across the globe, and the men and women who work on its grounds,” he said on “CNN This Morning.”
“That’s not an opinion. It’s not an interpretation. It’s not one side of a debate. It is an unequivocal, demonstrable fact.”
Mattingly called out a recent Associated Press article contrasting how the insurrection is described by President Joe Biden and predecessor Donald Trump, whose followers overran the Capitol. “One attack, two interpretations: Biden and Trump both make the Jan. 6 riot a political rallying cry,” read the story’s headline.
“There aren’t, in fact, two interpretations,” Mattingly said. “There is what happened, and then there are lies.”
To illustrate his point, the CNN anchor played clips of Republican lawmakers describing the Jan. 6 attack “in their own words, on or shortly after that day.”
For example, now-former Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had detailed how rioters overwhelmed law enforcement at the Capitol.
“They scaled walls,” McCarthy, then the House minority leader, said in an audio recording. “They brought ropes. They were scaling the scaffolding. They overtook the place.”
“That was Kevin McCarthy a week after the attack,” Mattingly said. “He’s currently unemployed, but he was once the House speaker and did more than any other Republican to halt the party’s break from Trump after Jan. 6.”
A separate clip showed Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) in February 2021, insisting, “You’re not going to get anything but condemnation from me for what happened with those criminals at the Capitol on Jan. 6.”
Mattingly also read aloud a text message that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) had sent during the assault.
“I was just told there’s an active shooter on the first floor of the Capitol,” she wrote to Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff at the time.
“Please tell the President to calm people,” she added. “This isn’t the way to solve anything.”
McCarthy, Hawley and Greene have since endorsed Trump’s 2024 bid for the White House. But, as Mattingly noted, what they had each described “was the reality of that day.”
In the years following the riot, Republicans have sought to downplay and whitewash the violence carried out by the mob seeking to overturn the 2020 results.
Trump, the leading candidate in the GOP presidential race, faces a federal indictment in connection to his attempted coup, as well as three other criminal cases. He has pleaded not guilty.
Among Americans identifying as Republican, the number who believe that Biden’s election victory was legitimate has fallen since 2021, according to a poll released this week. It also found that fewer Republicans believe Jan. 6 was “mostly violent” and that fewer think Trump bears responsibility for the attack.
The Washington Post-University of Maryland poll further revealed that a quarter of Americans believe the FBI instigated the riot — a conspiracy theory that some prominent Republican lawmakers have also embraced.