New York Times political reporter Astead Herndon went beyond justified condemnation of the Capitol Hill rioters to suggest Republicans were unfairly “exaggerating the unrest last summer” that emanated from Black Lives Matter protests and Antifa thuggery, in Sunday’s “How Republicans Are Warping Reality Around the Capitol Attack.”
The subhead was scathing: “Loyalists to President Trump are increasingly relying on conspiracy theories and misinformation, drawing false equivalence with last summer’s racial protests and blaming outside agitators.”
The Times itself certainly couldn’t be accused of that – the paper has done all it can to downplay or declare the riots “mostly peaceful.”
Immediately after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, all corners of the political spectrum repudiated the mob of President Trump’s supporters. Yet within days, prominent Republicans, party officials, conservative media voices and rank-and-file voters began making a rhetorical shift to try to downplay the group’s violent actions.
In one of the ultimate don’t-believe-your-eyes moments of the Trump era, these Republicans have retreated to the ranks of misinformation, claiming it was Black Lives Matter protesters and far-left groups like Antifa who stormed the Capitol — in spite of the pro-Trump flags and QAnon symbology in the crowd. Others have argued that the attack was no worse than the rioting and looting in cities during the Black Lives Matter movement, often exaggerating the unrest last summer while minimizing a mob’s attempt to overturn an election.
How much damage did the looters inflict nationwide? Perhaps $2 billion worth of paid insurance claims.
The shift is revealing about how conspiracy theories, deflection and political incentives play off one another in Mr. Trump’s G.O.P. For a brief time, Republican officials seemed perhaps open to grappling with what their party’s leader had wrought — violence in the name of their Electoral College fight. But any window of reflection now seems to be closing as Republicans try to pass blame and to compare last summer’s lawlessness, which was condemned by Democrats, to an attack on Congress, which was inspired by Mr. Trump.
Was the violence really “condemned by Democrats” at the time?
“The violence at the Capitol was shameful,” Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, tweeted at 6:55 a.m. the morning after the attack. “Our movement values respect for law and order and for the police.” But now, in a new video titled “What Really Happened on January 6th?” Mr. Giuliani is among those who are back to emphasizing conspiracy theories.
At least Herndon admitted that the Democratic Party was hurt by the association with the summer rioting, which contradicts what another Times reporter claimed on Saturday: “Republicans are now using the looting to try to explain away the Capitol attack. The result, for some Republican voters, ranges from doubt to conspiratorial thinking,” Herndon wrote.
In Sunday’s front-page story, “Assault Spawns New Rally Cry For Extremists,” Times reporters also went beyond justified criticism of the destructive rioters to denigrate Republicans and label Donald Trump an ally of hate groups – an amorphous grouping that the Times opportunistically expanded to include anti-immigration and pro-gun believers.
Hate groups have been a staple of American life no matter who is in the White House. They have had natural foes when Democrats have held the presidency. Under Mr. Trump, they have had an ally.
The president echoed their demonization of immigrants and fears of gun seizures and pushed white grievance into the American mainstream.