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ABOUT THOSE JAN. 6 TEXTS. The House Jan. 6 committee has released a bunch of texts from the day of the Capitol riot given to them by former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. The texts that have gotten the most attention were sent to Meadows by three Fox News hosts, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and Brian Kilmeade. As the riot raged, all urged Meadows to push President Donald Trump to make a forceful statement telling the rioters to leave the Capitol and end the violence.
Immediately after the texts were made public — read aloud at a committee meeting by Rep. Liz Cheney — some commentators used them to attack not Trump but the Fox hosts. The criticism was that the hosts were hypocrites because they privately recognized the destructiveness of the riot but downplayed it publicly. One commentator, the Washington Post's Aaron Blake, grossly mischaracterized what Ingraham had said in an effort to fit the facts into his preferred anti-Fox narrative.
But look at what actually happened. (Here I should say that I am a Fox News contributor and have been a friend of Ingraham's for years.) This is what Ingraham texted to Meadows: "Mark, the President needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy."
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Who could disagree with a word of that? The Capitol riot was a disaster in many ways, including the grave, irreparable damage it did to Trump's legacy. As the riot went on, Trump for hours failed to come out and clearly tell his supporters to stop, to go home, to put an end to it. That's what Ingraham urged him to do. And what was wrong with that? By the way, the committee-released texts also showed that Trump's own son, Donald Trump Jr., was sending similar messages to Meadows at the same time.
But then there is the charge of hypocrisy. Blake's accusation rested on Ingraham's opening to her program at 10 p.m. on Jan. 6. "This is the Ingraham Angle from a chaotic Washington tonight," Ingraham said. "Earlier today, the Capitol was under siege by people who can only be described as antithetical to the MAGA movement. Now they were likely not all Trump supporters, and there are some reports that antifa sympathizers may have been sprinkled throughout the crowd. We'll have more on that later. But the point remains, if you were a Trump supporter hoping to display your support for the president, well, today's antics at the Capitol did just the opposite. There are legitimate concerns about how these elections were conducted and in the middle of a pandemic with all the new restrictions, but that never should have lent any license to violence or other chaos."
Ingraham's message was clear. Perhaps the crowd was not all Trump supporters — and remember, in the hours after the Capitol was secured, even though it was clear that most of the rioters supported Trump, there were still questions about the overall makeup of the rioters. But Ingraham stressed that the larger point was, Trump supporters did their cause great damage. And no electoral grievance justified their violence. Again, who could disagree with that? It was entirely consistent with what Ingraham had texted to Meadows hours earlier.
The bottom line is there is much less to the texts story than the critics would have you believe. Of course, don't look for those critics to admit that. Some of them have been attacking Fox for years and are not going to stop now. Before you accept their spin, take a look at what Ingraham and the others actually said.
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