Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) blasted those who are spreading conspiracy theories about the January 6th insurrection — that the violence that day was a “false flag” operation — as “un-American” and “very dangerous.”
“It’s the same kind of thing you hear from people who say 9/11 was an inside job, for example,” Cheney said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday. “It’s un-American to be spreading those kinds of lies, and they are lies.”
Cheney, who is the top Republican on the select committee investigating January 6th, offered this scathing answer in response to a question from host Chris Wallace about recent claims that January 6th was an inside job or somehow provoked by agents of the government in an effort to smear or crack down on supporters of Donald Trump. Wallace didn’t say specifically to whom he was referring, but one major media figure has stoked controversy in recent days for giving a massive platform to such unfounded claims: Fox News’s own Tucker Carlson.
Carlson has a new docu-series, Patriot Purge, airing on Fox’s streaming service, Fox Nation. A trailer for Patriot Purge released late last month sparked widespread condemnation for featuring a guest who said, “False flags have happened in this country…one of which may have been January 6th.”
Patriot Purge is riddled with false equivalences, leaps in logic, dubious claims, and a few outright conspiracy theories. The first episode features one guest who calls the insurrection “a honeypot” and an excuse for the “political persecution” of Trump supporters. Another says January 6th was a “political warfare operation” potentially planned by the government. A journalist for the right-wing website The Blaze goes so far as to claim that not only did the government go easy on last year’s Black Lives Matter protesters, but that doing so was “part of setting a narrative to gaslight the right wing into thinking they could riot, too, and get away with it.”
Patriot Purge tries to connect the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration’s lie-riddled march to war, and the war on terror to 1/6 and its aftermath. In the series, Carlson argues that a second war on terror is now underway, a “domestic war in terror,” in which the federal government is using the events of January 6th as “a pretext to strip millions of Americans, disfavored Americans, of their core constitutional rights and defame them as domestic terrorists,” as Carlson puts it in the show.
The most controversial parts of Patriot Purge, however, are the intimations that undercover government agents, Antifa agitators, or someone else hiding in the crowd of MAGA dads and far-right extremists sparked the violent siege on the Capitol on 1/6. The show includes J. Michael Waller, an analyst at an obscure security-focused think tank, who contends that agents provocateur or disguised agitators might’ve fomented the attacks that day. “Having been trained by professional agitators in the past, I saw that this is a coordinated effort,” Waller says. (Waller says he participated in undercover anti-Soviet operations during the Cold War.)
The backlash to Carlson’s show was immediate. One of Fox’s own stars, Geraldo Rivera, slammed the show’s “inflammatory and outrageous rhetoric.” Fueling the controversy was the fact that Carlson’s co-writer and producer on the show, Spencer Downey, had previously collaborated on a documentary with far-right influencer Mike Cernovich, a one-time leader of what was once called the alt-right and a massive amplifier of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. The head of the Anti-Defamation League wrote to Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch, calling the “false flag” allegation “an abject indisputable lie and a blatant attempt to rewrite history.” The ADL’s letter added, “As an organization committed to fighting antisemitism and all forms of hate, we remain deeply concerned that the false narrative and wild conspiracy theories presented by Carlson will sow further division and has the potential to animate violence.”
In response to the trailer for Carlson’s show, Rep. Cheney tweeted that Carlson was giving “a platform to spread the same type of lies that provoked violence on January 6.” In her new interview with Wallace, she went on to say that “Democrats and Republicans together” have a responsibility “to make sure we understand every piece of the facts about what happened that day and to make sure the people who did it are held accountable.” She added, “To call it a false flag operation, to spread those kinds of lies, is very dangerous.”
Fox News, for its part, has stood by Carlson and Patriot Purge, going so far as to email a reporter who’d written about the show and asking the reporter to update his story to reflect that Carlson’s show appears on the Fox Nation streaming service, ensuring that potential viewers know exactly where to watch the program.