The Jan. 6 Committee, Fox News, and "Pelosi Republicans"
On Monday, the day before the January 6th House Select Committee held their first public hearing, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke with reporters about the committee and its mission. When asked about the involvement of fellow Republican representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, McCarthy snidely referred to them as “Pelosi Republicans.”
Of course, the label makes no sense when it comes to lawmaking or political ideology, though McCarthy wasn't about to make that distinction in front of the cameras. While Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a liberal Democrat, Cheney and Kinzinger are conservative Republicans with the legislative records to prove it. McCarthy's real issue was the two's willingness, as vocal critics of former president Donald Trump's dishonest "stop the steal" campaign, to serve on the committee at Pelosi’s request.
You see, McCarthy and many other Republican leaders in Washington have been arguing that the select committee is a partisan by design. And to an extent, they’re right. What they won't concede is that it's largely their own fault.
After calling for an evenly-split bipartisan committee months ago, and directing Republican Rep. John Katko to negotiate with the Democrats to form one (which Katko successfully did), McCarthy did an about-face in May, and assisted Senate Republicans in killing the initiative. In other words, the GOP — after running a cost/benefit analysis — decided that even a fair and square, bipartisan investigation into January 6th and its origins wasn’t worth the political damage its findings would presumably do to their party and their de facto leader, Donald Trump.
What we’re seeing now is a backup plan, in which Pelosi has taken the lead and produced a team that’s politically lopsided in the Democrats’ favor. Though she placed Liz Cheney on it herself, and allowed McCarthy five seats (out of a proposed 13) to fill with additional Republicans, Pelosi ended up vetoing two of McCarthy’s picks (Jim Jordan and Jim Banks) over their votes to stop the 2020 election from being certified. Instead of replacing those individuals with different Republicans, McCarthy quickly withdrew all five of his picks… which handed full control of the panel back to Pelosi. She then added a second Republican in Kinzinger, along with seven Democrats, for a total of nine committee members.
So, by accepting positions on the select committee, Cheney and Kinzinger (who were both much more in favor of the bipartisan investigation their fellow Republicans chose to kill) are now... “Pelosi Republicans.”
Is it just me, or does that logic seem backwards? I mean, had McCarthy played ball, he could have had six or seven Republicans on the committee. Instead, he rescinded and left it up to Pelosi to fill every seat herself.
You know, it’s almost as if McCarthy wanted the entire initiative, which he argued was direly important back in January, to be as partisan as possible so that he and his Republican colleagues could then denounce and discredit it for being — you know — partisan.
Either way, Republican hacks in the media quickly signed on to the mantra:
Again, this strikes me as backwards. What "strengthened" Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic Party was four years of Donald Trump. He and his conduct as president handed them the House, Senate, and U.S. Presidency. This amounted to the Republicans losing total control of Washington in the shortest time span in almost 70 years. Cheney and Kinzinger, on the other hand, actually won their elections. And unlike Trump, they didn’t cost any of their Republican colleagues theirs, and aren't trying to unseat any Republican incumbents now.
On Tuesday at the first committee hearing, we heard from four brave police officers who, along with hundreds of others, confronted rioters at the Capitol that day. Their names are Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, Michael Fanone, Daniel Hodges, and Harry Dunn, and their stories were heralding and emotional, as was the video footage supporting their accounts. As cops were beaten bloody with weapons and fists, and sprayed in the face with chemical agents, they struggled to hold onto their weapons which they feared (and were threatened) would be used against them. They were called traitors, Nazis, and n***ers, and were told by insurrectionists sold on Trump's election lies that they were going to die.
These four officers came from different departments and backgrounds (including political parties), and they suffered — and continue to suffer — greatly from the physical and mental injuries they incurred while protecting members of Congress that day. Though their individual battles took place at different parts of the building, their experiences and perspectives illustrated some common themes…
They performed their jobs with honor and distinction under horrific circumstances, they don’t believe that a number of political leaders (including some they spared from violence on January 6th) have been held accountable for their role in provoking the violence, and they’re angry over an issue that Officer Fanone passionately described in his testimony.
“What makes the struggle harder and more painful is to know so many of my fellow citizens, including many of the people I put my life at risk to defend, are downplaying or outright denying what happened,” said Fanone, who was beaten unconscious by rioters, and suffered a heart attack, brain injury, and PTSD. “I feel like I went to hell and back to protect the people in this room. But too many are now telling me that hell doesn’t exist… or that hell wasn’t actually that bad. The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful.” He slapped his hand down on the witness stand to emphasize his point.
He’s right, of course. And those who’ve been grossly whitewashing the attack, including Donald Trump, Rob Portman, Andrew Clyde, and many other Republican politicians and right-wing media pundits, know he’s right. They just don't care, because protecting their jobs, power, and influence is clearly all that matters to such people.
Two people who do care, and do think those officers' sacrifices matter, are Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger (the alleged “Pelosi Republicans”). They've likely ended their own political careers by continuing to tell the truth about January 6th, and working to seek accountability for the bad actors who brought it to fruition.
The moment Tuesday’s hearing ended, the first person Fox News brought on for reaction was Rep. Jim Banks (one of the two Republicans who'd been tossed off the committee). He denounced the entire hearing as — you know — partisan. He slammed the questioners for not asking the witnesses why the Capitol wasn’t better prepared to deal with an attack (something these particular witnesses wouldn't have known anyway), and then unequivocally stated that everything Cheney and Kinzinger had said and asked during the hearing (despite their rhetoric and stated concerns reflecting what they’ve been saying for the last six months) was directly "scripted" by — you guessed it — Nancy Pelosi. He even went a far as to say (again, unequivocally) that the two Republicans' master plan is to ensure that the Democrats hold onto congressional majorities next year.
You can’t make this stuff up, folks.
On Twitter, American Greatness columnist and frequent Fox News guest Julie Kelly disgracefully called Officer Michael Fanone a “crisis actor” for his impassioned testimony. (Again, Fanone was the cop who was beaten unconscious and suffered a heart attack, brain injury, and PTSD at the hands of January 6th insurrectionists.)
On The Five, Greg Gutfeld called every committee member (including the Republicans) a “phony,” mocked individuals on the panel for tearing up at times, and reduced the implications of the January 6th attack to merely “having politicians’ jobs disrupted for two hours."
No, I’m not joking.
On Tucker Carlson's show, Carlson actually laughed at a video clip of Officer Fanone describing the "psychological trauma and emotional anxiety" he suffered from the Capitol attack. Carlson added, "What is interesting is Michael Fanone didn’t mention experiencing any trauma during the time he spent last year on the D.C. police force. It was just last summer that rioters in Washington torched the oldest Episcopal church in the city just steps from the White House."
How's that for a whataboutism?
I get that a huge component of the political right's strategy for glossing over January 6th, and what caused it, is to evoke the (very real) double-standard that a number of Democrats and members of the mainstream media have used when it comes to rioting. But what does that have to do with Fanone?
I know I'm sounding like a broken record with this run-down, but I'm going to venture a guess (having never had it happen to me) that being beaten unconscious, and suffering a heart attack and brain injury at the hands of people trying to wrestle your firearm away while telling you they're going to kill you... is a tad more personally traumatic than an incident in which none of those things happened to you.
Yet, Carlson is implying, somehow, that Fanone is a hypocrite or being disingenuous... without even knowing the officer's thoughts on other riots, or what his experiences dealing with other mobs have been. Carlson's argument was nonsensical... but I'm sure much of his audience ate it up nonetheless.
Laura Ingraham used her show to mock Fanone as well, along with the rest of the officers who testified, by presenting them with acting "performance awards." I guess it's only appropriate to "back the blue" when the situation is politically convenient.
Deranged doesn't even begin to describe these people, but that's what political tribalism and careerism can do to individuals. What's particularly notable is how much scorn they reserved for Fanone.
I suspect part of the reason is that Fanone is a Republican, and so — under binary rules — he's supposed to be on their "side" (no matter what). And because he's not, and because his honest accounts of that day are politically and ideologically damaging to narratives the political right (including cable news hosts) has worked hard to push, Fanone's character and integrity must be attacked.
In other words, to them, Fanone too is a "Pelosi Republican" and should be treated like one.
I do have hope, especially with Liz Cheney on board, that the investigation (despite its political lopsidedness) will produce some institutionally helpful findings. Unfortunately, no matter what's ultimately discovered, I'm pretty confident that the political and media stupidity surrounding the investigation will only worsen.