Almost 18 months ago, thousands of our fellow Americans stormed the U.S. Capitol in an unprecedented violent attack timed to prevent the lawful certification of Joe Biden’s election as 46th president of the United States.
The siege continues over federally regulated broadcast airwaves, social media platforms and over the largely deregulated cable channels, with programming that insists what we all saw on Jan. 6, 2021, was not a violent insurrection instigated by the sitting president and aimed to extend his tenure, contrary to the U.S. Constitution and the will of the electorate.
It manifests in the form of denial by millions of Americans, enabled by a corporate media complex that includes Fox News and WABC 770 AM, the powerful New York talk-radio station whose 50,000-watt transmitter in Lodi, New Jersey, can be heard at night across much of North America. That’s the station where you can hear unrepentant chief coup plotter Rudy Giuliani continue to promote Trump’s delusional counter-reality narrative that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Like a dystopian plot line that allows there’s no escape, the Big Lie spawns yet another, and then another.
On Giuliani’s afternoon show on June 11, the day after the first televised hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, the former mayor of New York City tried to blame agents provocateurs from antifa for what he claims was the unjustified fatal shooting by Capitol Police of QAnon devotee Ashli Babbitt as she attempted to breach the locked door of the House speaker’s chambers.
“She had no gun, she had no weapon,” Giuliani told listeners, adding that the officer who shot Babbitt “had police reinforcements on both sides.” He then described the Jan. 6 select committee as “liars and crooks” and said the panel was “maybe the most disgraceful committee ever assembled by Congress. It is a desecration to democracy.”
Earlier this year, PolitiFact rated the claim that antifa was somehow implicated in Babbitt’s death as a “pants on fire” lie. The site tracked that disinformation from articles that reported the existence of a “fresh analysis” of two videos of Babbitt’s shooting, supposedly linking antifa activists to the confrontation with police. This was PolitiFact’s summary:
The claim builds off the unfounded conspiracy theory that Antifa drove the attack on the Capitol. The rumor flies in the face of substantial reporting and documentary evidence. The march to the Capitol was weeks in the making, with plans indicating the potential for violence drawn up in the open on social media forums and pro-Trump websites. Video and photographs from the scene show Trump-branded paraphernalia and flags, and well-known far-right personalities and GOP politicians were filmed participating in the riot. Some even broadcast their involvement on live-streams.
Yet this disinformation remains in heavy rotation on WABC. The station was purchased back in 2019 for $12.5 million by John Catsimatidis, a billionaire oil oligarch as well as a major Trump donor and sycophant. Other WABC hosts include nationally syndicated right-wing commentator and bestselling author Mark Levin. On the eve of the June 10 House hearings, Levin went on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show to suggest that Speaker Nancy Pelosi should be the target of the House inquiry.
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As Insider reported, Levin “sought to divert blame” for the Jan. 6 riot from Trump and his supporters to Pelosi, “baselessly suggesting she was behind security failings during the riot.” The former Reagan administration lawyer went on to suggest that Pelosi be put in “handcuffs and leg irons” and thrown into jail.
Giuliani’s claim on his talk show last week that antifa was somehow responsible for the death of Ashli Babbitt is a recycled GOP talking point, rated “pants on fire” by PolitiFact.
The House speaker has no personal responsibility for the physical security of the U.S. Capitol. That’s the responsibility of the Capitol Police Board, which would be responsible for requesting assistance from the National Guard. Since Washington, D.C., is not a state and has no governor, the D.C. National Guard is under the president’s command.
The canard that Pelosi was responsible for security was raised last summer by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a Trump confidant, at a press conference convened after the speaker blocked Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s selection of Jordan for membership on the select committee. Jordan and Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., were both rejected by Pelosi, who wrote that she took that “unprecedented decision” out of concern for “the integrity of the investigation.”
Both Jordan and Banks voted against certifying the results of the 2020 election. Banks has said that participants in the Jan. 6 riot were “just Americans” who were unjustly being investigated “for the sole crime of planning a legal political protest.” Before Pelosi rejected Banks’ selection as ranking member on the select committee, he wrote that “if Democrats were serious about investigating political violence,” the committee would investigate not only the Jan. 6 riot “but also the hundreds of violent political riots last summer” — meaning the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 — “when many more innocent Americans and law-enforcement officers were attacked.” Pelosi had created the Jan. 6 select committee, he said, “solely to malign conservatives and to justify the left’s authoritarian agenda.”
For his part, Jordan was in contact with Trump leading up to Jan. 6 and publicly embraced Trump’s post-election strategy. He was also in contact with Trump on the day of the attack, as the president watched the siege at the Capitol unfold on television for three hours without taking action to quell the violence.
Last month, Jordan was subpoenaed by the House select committee, along with Minority Leader McCarthy and Reps. Scott Perry, R-Pa., Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., and Mo Brooks, R-Ala. That came after the GOP members refused to testify voluntarily and after Senate Republicans effectively blocked the formation of an independent commission to investigate the circumstances leading up to the Capitol attack.
“These members include those who participated in meetings at the White House, those who had direct conversations with President Trump leading up to the attack, and those who were involved in the planning and coordination of certain activities” on and before Jan. 6,” the House committee tweeted.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed last month, McCarthy and Jordan challenged the legitimacy of the committee’s actions. “One would expect this sort of inquiry from a banana republic, not from the U.S. House of Representatives,” they wrote. “By subpoenaing us and three other Republican members, the Select Committee is escalating its abusive tactics. This attempt to coerce information from members of Congress about their official duties is a dangerous abuse of power, serves no legitimate legislative purpose, and eviscerates constitutional norms. Just because members of Congress are responsible for writing the laws doesn’t give a select few license to subvert them.”
In December, when committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., wrote Jordan seeking his voluntary participation in the hearings, Thompson laid out the Jan. 6 timeline and why Jordan’s knowledge of the events that day was critical to the committee’s work:
Despite the urgent requests that the President speak and instruct the rioters to leave, President Trump did not make such a statement for multiple hours as rioters attacked police and invaded and occupied the Capitol. The Select Committee has testimony indicating that the president was watching television coverage of the attack from his private dining room adjoining the Oval Office during this time period. Even after the crowd ultimately dispersed late in the day, then-President Trump, through his legal team, continued to seek to delay or otherwise impede the electoral count. And Mr. Trump’s tweet from that evening further revealed his perspective on the violence: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.”
We understand that you had at least one and possibly multiple communications with President Trump on January 6th. We would like to discuss each such communication with you in detail. And we also wish to inquire about any communications you had on January 5th or 6th with those in the Willard War Room, the Trump legal team, White House personnel or others involved in organizing or planning the actions and strategies for January 6th.
Much of the disinformation coming over the insurrectionist wavelength originates from those directly implicated in events leading up to the Jan. 6 attack. In addition to Babbitt, three other civilians lost their lives that day. The violent siege also contributed to the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. Four other officers who responded that day subsequently killed themselves.
As WABC 770 blankets the airwaves with Trump’s alternate reality morning, noon and night, here on Planet Earth the fact pattern continues to suggest that the violent attack on the Capitol was premeditated. Consider the March 2021 arrest of Julian Elie Khater of State College, Pennsylvania, and George Pierre Tanios of Morgantown, West Virginia, for allegedly spraying an unknown chemical weapon — believed to be bear spray — into the faces of two Capitol police officers and one member of the D.C. Metropolitan Police, who was wearing a body camera on the day of the attack.
One of those officers was Sicknick, who collapsed several hours after the spraying incident and was hospitalized. He died the next day. While initial reports indicated Sicknick had been hit in the head with a fire extinguisher, the medical examiner reported that he died of “natural causes” after suffering two strokes. In an interview with the Washington Post, Dr. Francisco Diaz confirmed that Sicknick had been sprayed with a chemical irritant but had not suffered an allergic reaction, nor was there “evidence of internal or external injuries.” But “all that transpired played a role in his condition,” Diaz said.
According to the FBI court filing, Khater and Tanios, who assaulted Sicknick and other officers, “knew each other and grew up together in New Jersey.”
The FBI timeline reports that insurrectionists started to breach the Capitol complex around 2 p.m. Roughly 20 minutes later, both the House and Senate were adjourned and members were forced to flee. Congress did not reconvene until 8 p.m. that night. The chemical spraying of Sicknick and his fellow officers occurred at 2:20 pm, relatively early in the melee, as police were trying to hold back the mob behind bike racks.
“The officers were temporarily blinded by the substance, were temporary disabled from performing their duties and needed medical attention and assistance from fellow officers,” recounted the FBI in court papers. “They were initially treated with water in an effort to wash out the unknown substance from their eyes and on their face. All three officers were incapacitated and unable to perform their duties for at least 20 minutes or longer while they recovered from the spray.”
In one case, an officer suffered injuries to her eyes and “scabbing that remained on her face for weeks.” The police described the chemical agent used as being “as strong as, if not stronger than, any version of pepper spray they had been exposed to during their training as law enforcement officers.”
The criminal trial for Khater and Tanios was scheduled to get underway this month, but was postponed in April by a federal judge to permit plea deal negotiations to continue. Tanios, who was arrested trying to board a plane at Newark airport, has been confined at home, while Khater has remained in custody.
During the televised committee hearing on June 10, Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards, who was assaulted twice on the day of the attack and was one of the three officers allegedly sprayed by Khater and Tanios, recounted the scene at the Capitol during the siege.
“When I fell behind that line and I saw, I can just remember my breath catching in my throat because what I saw was just a war scene,” she testified. “It was something like I’d seen out of the movies. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were officers on the ground. They were bleeding. They were throwing up. I mean, I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people’s blood. I was catching people as they fell. It was carnage. It was chaos. I can’t even describe what I saw.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that as a police officer, as a law enforcement officer, I would find myself in the middle of a battle,” Edwards continued. “I’m trained to detain a couple of subjects and handle a crowd, I’m not combat trained. That day it was just hours of hand-to-hand combat, hours of dealing with things that were way beyond any law enforcement officer has ever trained for. … I just remember that moment of stepping behind the line and just seeing the absolute war zone that the west front had become.”
Seated directly behind Edwards in the hearing room was Sandra Garza, Brian Sicknick’s longtime partner. She sobbed as Edwards recounted that Sicknick looked “ghostly pale” after he had been sprayed.
Garza is a licensed clinical social worker who described in a CNN opinion piece last year how her relationship with Sicknick grew out of their “love of animals, our military experience, and our passion for helping others — he as an officer, me as a clinical social worker.”
Because of COVID, neither Garza, nor Sicknick’s parents could see Sicknick in the hospital. After he died, Garza says she in initially avoided watching the coverage surrounding the violent siege of Jan. 6.
“I saw officers being brutalized and beaten, and protesters defying orders to stay back. … I kept thinking, ‘Where is the president? Why is it taking so long for the National Guard to arrive?'”
“But before his memorial a month later, something came over me: I wanted to see everything I could and understand what happened that day,” Garza wrote. “As I watched the videos, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I saw officers being brutalized and beaten, and protesters defying orders to stay back from entering the Capitol. All the while, I kept thinking, ‘Where is the President? Why is it taking so long for the National Guard to arrive? Where is the cavalry?'”
Garza faulted Republican members of Congress who lied “on TV and in remarks to reporters and constituents about what happened that day.” And the ongoing campaign of dishonesty, she reasons, continues to victimize those who were attacked on Jan. 6.
“By denying or downplaying the viciousness and trauma that occurred on January 6, members of Congress and the people who continue echoing their false narrative are engaging in a specific kind of psychological harm that is familiar to people who work in mental health,” Garza wrote. “It’s known as ‘secondary wounding.’ Secondary wounding, described by psychologist Aphrodite Matsakis, occurs when people ‘minimize or discount the magnitude of the event, its meaning to the victim, [or] its impact on the victim’s life.”
Garza concluded: “To know that some members of Congress — along with the former President, Donald Trump, who Brian and I once supported but who can only now be viewed as the mastermind of that horrible attack — are not acknowledging Brian’s heroism that day is unforgivable and un-American.”
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