Republican Voters Are Eating Up Right-Wing Lies About the Capitol Riot

Five people died as a result of the Capitol riot on January 6, and more than 400 have been charged in connection with the attack, which sought to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory. 

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, half of Republicans believe the riot wasn’t an attempt by the far-right to keep Donald Trump in the White House, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Monday. Instead, half of GOP voters said it was staged by left-wing activists or that it was “mostly peaceful.”

The poll was conducted March 30 and 31 and surveyed 1,005 people. 

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The overwhelming majority of those arrested have attributed their actions at least in part to believing the presidential election was stolen from Trump. But in the three months since the attack, there’s been a huge push from Republican elected officials and conservative media to rebrand the Capitol attack as having nothing to do with Trump and not really a big deal in the first place.

In March, Trump told Fox News that there was “zero threat right from the start” at the Capitol and some alleged rioters were being “persecuted.” 

Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, said in a radio interview last month that he “never really felt threatened” during the riot at the Capitol, adding that he believed those at the Capitol were “people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break a law.”

“Had the tables been turned and President Donald Trump won the election and those were thousands of Black Lives Matter and antifa protesters I would have been concerned,” he added. 

During a Senate hearing in February, Johnson pushed the conspiracy theory that “fake Trump supporters” were responsible for the attack. And he wasn’t the only one—several Fox News hosts and Johsnon’s Republican colleagues in Congress began boosting that lie on the very day of the insurrection, according to NPR

“Now they were likely not all Trump supporters and there are some reports that antifa sympathizers may have been sprinkled throughout the crowd,” Fox host Laura Ingraham said at the beginning of her January 6 broadcast.

In the 24 hours following the attack, the lie that antifa carried out the attack was mentioned online more than 411,000 times, according to the MIT Technology Review

While Republicans are split on the nature of the attack, eight in 10 Democrats and six in ten independents predictably do not believe the conspiracy theories, according to Reuters. A majority of Republicans also believe the election was stolen from Trump and that he should run for a second non-consecutive term in 2024, the poll found.

“Republicans have their own version of reality,” John Geer, a co-director of Vanderbilt University’s polling program, told Reuters. “It is a huge problem. Democracy requires accountability and accountability requires evidence.”

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