I've repeatedly made it clear that I condemn the Capitol Hill riot on January 6 and want to see accountability, including jail time where appropriate, for all crimes committed that day. But the media narrative of what happened at the Capitol during Trump’s otherwise-peaceful rally for an honest election is far from what actually occurred.
Just as President Biden has clung tightly to the fiction that President Trump referred to white supremacists as “good people,” he also maintained after Trump’s acquittal that Officer Brian Sicknick had lost “his life while protecting the Capitol from a violent, riotous mob on January 6, 2021.” As the story went, Sicknick had been bashed in the head by a violent pro-Trumper and had died of his injury. THE NEW YORK TIMES had said that the mob “overpowered Sicknick” and “struck him in the head with a fire extinguisher,” after which, “with a bloody gash in his head, Mr. Sicknick was rushed to the hospital and placed on life support.” But, as journalist and free-speech advocate Glenn Greenwald points out, “the problem with this story is that is it is false in almost all respects.”
"...This horrifying story about a pro-Trump mob beating a police officer to death with a fire extinguisher was repeated over and over,” Greenwald writes, “by multiple journalists on television, in print, and on social media. It became arguably the single most-emphasized and known story of this event, and understandably so --- it was a savage and barbaric act that resulted in the harrowing killing by a pro-Trump mob of a young Capitol police officer.”
I wonder how many people who have repeated this false story even know where it originated. Not surprisingly, it started with that report from the TIMES, which cited as sources only anonymous law enforcement officials. That's all there was. As Greenwald writes, “Despite this alleged brutal murder taking place in one of the most surveilled buildings on the planet, filled that day with hundreds of cellphones taping the events, nobody saw video of it. No photographs depicted it. To this day, no autopsy report has been released. No details from any official source have been provided.” He died later, and we don’t know the cause.
The unsourced NYT story seems to be good enough for President Biden, though; he is either far too credulous or a calculated liar. Perhaps he didn’t see another story that ran the same day as the TIMES story –-- an interview in ProPublica with Sicknick’s brother that said nothing at all about a head injury or a fire extinguisher, only about a possible reaction to pepper spray. It said Sicknick had texted from the hospital that he was “in good spirits.”
And perhaps Biden didn’t read the entire CNN story that, deep within (not in the headline, of course), said "...medical examiners did not find signs that the officer sustained blunt force trauma, so investigators believe that early reports that he was fatally struck by a fire extinguisher are not true.”
To be sure, many if not most Americans pay attention only to the first few paragraphs of a story or even just the headlines, and one of the NYT articles carried this one: “He Dreamed of Being a Police Officer, Then Was Killed By a Pro-Trump Mob.”
Greenwald makes the case that as it became clearer that no other deaths could be attributed to the pro-Trump mob --- that the other fatalities all had other causes --- it became even more important to spread the fake fire extinguisher story, which was the ONE WAY to depict the riot “in the most violent and menacing light possible.”
It should be possible to condemn the riot –- as I and most other Trump supporters did –- without spreading outrageous lies about what happened that day, but the left doesn’t know how to do that. Creating huge fake whoppers is their stock and trade. And now that they’ve had seven weeks to repeat this one over and over, at least half the country wrongly believes Office Sicknick was beaten to death by a pro-Trump mob. Greenwald says, “There is no circumstance or motive that justifies the dissemination of false claims by journalists. The more consequential the event, the less justified, and more harmful, serial journalistic falsehoods are.”
This particular lie was extremely consequential. It even made it into the impeachment hearing and subsequent trial, with the one article of impeachment against President Trump falsely claiming that Trump supporters “injured and killed law enforcement personnel.” As noted by legal analyst Andrew McCarthy, the House impeachment managers explicitly said on page 28 of their pretrial memorandum that “the insurrectionists killed a Capitol police officer by striking him in the head with a fire extinguisher.”
Finally, on February 9, REVOLVER NEWS ran a compilation and analysis of what we know, and don’t know, regarding Sicknick’s death –- I believe we commented and linked to that story –- and Tucker Carlson reported on it the following day. But so much damage had already been done. And most of the media outlets that had spread the lie in the first place simply ignored the real story. THE NYT still has not written a retraction or correction, just a vague “update” on their original reporting that says, “New information has emerged regarding the death of Capitol officer Brian Sicknick that questions the initial cause of his death provided by officials close to the Capitol Police.”
Another false narrative about a man carrying zip-ties was also spread, presumably to make the security breach seem like a premeditated attempt to forcibly detain people. But this was shown to be wrong as well; Greenwald’s article gives details.
Yet another particularly damaging lie is the insistence that this was an “armed insurrection.” That suggests there were guns, when there’s no evidence of any protester having a gun inside the Capitol. And if there were no guns, what kind of an “insurrection” (or “coup”) is that? On January 15, REUTERS published an article with the headline, ‘U.S. says Capitol rioters meant to ‘capture and assassinate’ officials.” Mainstream reporters and TDS-infected tweeters such as Harvard Law’s Laurence Tribe picked that up and ran with it.
And now Nancy Pelosi, with her insistence on militarizing the Capitol and blaming pro-Trump “domestic terrorists” for armed soldiers and fences topped with razor wire, inflates the narrative even more. THIS IS ALL BASED ON A LIE that they just keep telling, to further marginalize Trump supporters.
One last point: Officer Brian Sicknick lay in honor in the Capitol Rotunda, one of only four in our country’s history to do so, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Yes, all who lose their lives as law enforcement officers are heroes, but in this case is it too cynical to think of this honor as also being used as a stunt by Democrats to help perpetuate their false narrative? I don’t think so, especially since Pelosi and Schumer took the opportunity to release a joint statement again calling it a “violent insurrection.” Tell me, when have they shown such deep concern for officers who died in leftist mob violence?