Jan. 6th Lays Siege to Our Airwaves

Bedlam at the U.S. Capitol.

It’s been eighteen months since thousands of our fellow Americans stormed our nation’s Capital in an unprecedented violent attack timed to prevent the lawful certification of the 2020 election of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States. 

The siege continues over our federally regulated broadcast airwaves, social media platforms, and over the largely deregulated cable channels with programming that insists what we all saw on Jan. 6 was not a violent insurrection instigated by the sitting President of the United States aimed to extend his tenure contrary to the U.S. Constitution and the will of the electorate. 

It manifests in the form of denial by millions of Americans enabled by a corporate mass media complex that includes Fox News and WABC 770 AM, which has its powerful 50,000 watt transmitter in Lodi, New Jersey that at night can be heard across much of North America. This is the radio station on which you can hear an unrepentant chief coup plotter Rudy Giuliani continue to promote Trump’s delusional counter-reality narrative that the last presidential election was stolen. 

Like a dystopian plot line from which there’s evidently no escape, a big lie spawns yet another, and another.

THE DEFLECTION

On Giuliani’s afternoon show, the day after the June 10 televised hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol,  the former Mayor of New York City tried to blame agent provocateurs from Antifa for what he maintains was the unjustified fatal shooting by the Capitol Police of QAnon devotee Ashli Babbitt as she attempted to breach the locked door  of the House Speakers’ Chambers.

“She had no gun, she had no weapon, he had police re-enforcements on both sides” he told his radio audience.  He then described the Jan. 6 House Select Committee as “liars and crooks” and went on to say the panel was “maybe the most disgraceful committee ever assembled by Congress. It is a desecration to democracy.”

Earlier this year, Poltifact.com rated the claim that Antifa were implicated in Babbitt’s death as a “pants on fire” lie.

Poltifact tracked the disinformation from articles that reported the existence of a “fresh analysis” of two videos of Babbitt’s shooting that linked Antifa to the confrontation with police. 

“The claim builds off the unfounded conspiracy theory that Antifa drove the attack on the Capitol,” reported Poltifact.com. “The rumor flies in the face of substantial reporting and documentary evidence. The march to the Capitol was weeks in the making, with plans indicating the potential for violence drawn up in the open on social media forums and pro-Trump websites. Video and photographs from the scene show Trump-branded paraphernalia and flags, and well-known far-right personalities and GOP politicians were filmed participating in the riot. Some even broadcast their involvement on live-streams.” 

Yet this disinformation remains in heavy around the clock rotation on WABC 770. The station was purchased back in 2019 for $12.5 million by John Catsimatidis, a billionaire oil oligarch as well as a major Trump donor and sycophant. Other WABC hosts include nationally syndicated radio host and best selling author Mark Levin. On the eve of the June 10th House hearings, Levin went on Sean Hannity’s Show on Fox News to suggest that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should be the target of the House inquiry.

 

BLAME SHIFTING

Fox News host Mark Levin sought to divert blame for the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot from Donald Trump and his supporters to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, baselessly suggesting she was behind security failings during the riot,” according to Business Insider. The former Reagan administration lawyer went on to suggest Speaker Pelosi be put in “handcuffs and leg irons” and thrown into jail.

The Speaker of the House is not responsible for the physical security of the nation’s Capital. It is the responsibility of the Capitol Police Board,  the entity that would be responsible for requesting assistance from the National Guard which, because Washington D.C. does not have a Governor, was under the command of then President Trump.

The canard that Pelosi was responsible for security was raised by last summer by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a Trump confidant,  at a press conference convened after the Speaker blocked Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy selection of Jordan for membership  on the Select Committee. Jordan and his colleague Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) were both rejected for membership by Pelosi who wrote she took the “unprecedented decision” out of concern for “the integrity of the investigation.” 

Both Jordan and Banks voted against certifying the results of the 2020 election. Banks has said that participants in the Jan. 6 riot were “just Americans” who were  unjustly “under Congressional investigation for the sole crime of planning a legal political protest.” Before Pelosi rejected Banks choice as the ranking member on the select committee he wrote  that “if Democrats were serious about investigating political violence, this committee would be studying not only the January 6 riot at the Capitol, but also the hundreds of violent political riots last summer when many more innocent Americans and law-enforcement officers were attacked.” 

He claimed that the Speaker of the House  has created the Jan. 6 select committee “solely to malign conservatives and to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda.”

 

PRESENT AND UNACCOUNTED FOR

For his part, Jordan was in contact with Trump leading up to Jan. 6 and publicly embraced Trump’s post-election strategy and was also in contact with him on the day of the attack when the former president let the siege at the Capitol continue for over three hours without taking any action to quell the violence. 

Last month, Jordan was subpoenaed by the House Select Committee along with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA.), Reps. Scott Perry (R-PA.),  Andy Biggs (R-AZ.), and Mo Brooks (R-AL.). The unprecedented step came after the GOP members refused to voluntarily testify and after Senate Republicans effectively blocked the formation of a 9/11 Commission to investigate the circumstances leading up to the attack on the Capitol.

“These members include those who participated in meetings at the White House, those who had direct conversations with President Trump leading up to the attack, and those who were involved in the planning and coordination of certain activities on and before January 6th,” the House Select Committee tweeted.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed last month McCarthy and Jordan challenged the legitimacy of the Select Committee’s actions.

“One would expect this sort of inquiry from a banana republic, not from the U.S. House of Representatives,” they wrote. “By subpoenaing us and three other Republican members, the Select Committee is escalating its abusive tactics. This attempt to coerce information from members of Congress about their official duties is a dangerous abuse of power, serves no legitimate legislative purpose, and eviscerates constitutional norms. Just because members of Congress are responsible for writing the laws doesn’t give a select few license to subvert them.”

In December,  when Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MISS.) wrote Jordan seeking his voluntary participation in the hearings, the chairman laid out the Jan. 6 timeline and why Jordan’s knowledge of the events that day were critical to the committee’s work.

“Despite the urgent requests that the President speak and instruct the rioters to leave, President Trump did not make such a statement for multiple hours as rioters attacked police and invaded and occupied the Capitol,” Thompson wrote.  “The Select Committee has testimony indicating that the president was watching television coverage of the attack from his private dining room adjoining the Oval Office during this time period. Even after the crowd ultimately dispersed late in the day, then-President Trump, through his legal team, continued to seek to delay or otherwise impede the electoral count. And Mr. Trump’s tweet from that evening further revealed his perspective on the violence: ‘These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.’

Thompson’s letter continued. “We understand that you had at least one and possibly multiple communications with President Trump on January 6th. We would like to discuss each such communication with you in detail. And we also wish to inquire about any communications you had on January 5th or 6th with those in the Willard War Room, the Trump legal team, White House personnel or others involved in organizing or planning the actions and strategies for January 6th.”

 

THE HUMAN TOLL

Like so much of the disinformation coming over the insurrectionist wave length, it originates from those directly implicated in the events leading up to the Jan. 6 attack. In addition to Babbitt, three other civilians lost their lives that day. The violent siege  also contributed to the death of South River, New Jersey native and U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. Four other police officers that responded that day subsequently killed themselves.

Even as WABC 770 blankets the airwaves with Trump’s alternate reality morning, noon and night, here on planet earth the fact pattern continues to emerge that shows just how violent and premeditated the attack on the Capitol really was. Consider the March 2021 arrest of Julian Elie Khater, of State College, Pennsylvania and George Pierre Tanios, from Morgantown, West Virginia for allegedly spraying an unknown chemical weapon, believed to be bear spray, into the faces of two Capitol Police Officers and one member of the Metropolitan Police, who was wearing a body camera the day of the attack.  

One of those officers was Sicknick, who collapsed several hours after the spraying incident and was hospitalized. He died the next day. While initial reports indicated Sicknick had been hit in the head with a fire extinguisher, the Medical Examiner reported he died after of “natural causes” after suffering two strokes.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Dr. Francisco Diaz confirmed Sicknick had been sprayed by a chemical irritant but had not suffered an allergic reaction to it nor was there any “evidence of internal or external injuries” to his body but he did add that “all that transpired played a role in his condition.” 

Ironically, according the FBI court filing, they got a tip that Khater and Tanios “knew each other and grew up together in New Jersey.”

According to the Jan. 6 timeline in the FBI court filings insurrectionists started to swarm the U.S. Capitol grounds. By 2 p.m. they had started to breach the Capitol itself. Twenty minutes later both the House and U.S. Senate were forced to flee. Congress would not reconvene until 8 p.m. that night. The timing of the chemical spraying of Sicknick and his fellow officers was at 2:20 pm, relatively early in the melee, as they were trying to hold back the mob behind bike racks. 

The officers were temporary blinded by the substance, were temporary disabled from performing their duties and needed medical attention and assistance from fellow officers,” recounted the FBI in court papers. “They were initially treated with water in an effort to wash out the unknown substance from their eyes and on their face. All three officers were incapacitated and unable to perform their duties for at least 20 minutes or longer while they recovered from the spray.”

In one of the officers the injuries to her eyes produced “scabbing that remained on her face for weeks”. The police described the chemical agent used on them  “as strong as, if not stronger than, any version of pepper spray they had been exposed to during their training as law enforcement officers.” 

The criminal trial for Khater and Tanios was scheduled to get underway this month but was postponed in April by the federal judge in the case until October to permit plea deal negotiations to continue. Tanios, who was arrested trying to board a plane at Newark Liberty, has been confined at home while Khater has remained in custody. 

 

‘A WAR ZONE’

During the televised June 10 Select House Committee hearing, Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards, who was assaulted twice on the day of the attack and was one of the three officers allegedly sprayed by Khater and Tanios, recounted the scene at the Capitol during the siege. 

“When I fell behind that line and I saw, I can just remember my breath catching in my throat because what I saw was just a war scene,” Edwards testified. “It was something like I’d seen out of the movies. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were officers on the ground. They were bleeding. They were throwing up. I mean, I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people’s blood. I was catching people as they fell. It was carnage. It was chaos. I can’t even describe what I saw.”

Edwards continued. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think that as a police officer, as a law enforcement officer, I would find myself in the middle of a battle. I’m trained to detain a couple of subjects and handle a crowd, I’m not combat trained. That day it was just hours of hand-to-hand combat, hours of dealing with things that were way beyond any law enforcement officer has ever trained for. I just remember it. I just remember that moment of stepping behind the line and just seeing the absolute war zone that the west front had become.”

Seated directly behind Edwards, sat Sandra Garza, Sicknick’s longtime partner who sobbed as Edwards recounting of how Sicknick looked “ghostly pale” after he had been sprayed.

Garza is a licensed clinical social worker who described in a CNN opinion piece last year how their relationship grew out of their “love of animals, our military experience, and our passion for helping others — he as an officer, me as a clinical social worker.” 

Because of COVID, Neither Garza, nor Sicknick’s parents Gladys and Charles Sicknick could see Brian who was on a ventilator. After Brian died, Garza says she avoided watching the coverage surrounding the violent siege of Jan. 6. 

THE ASSAULT CONTINUES

“But before his memorial a month later, something came over me: I wanted to see everything I could and understand what happened that day,” Garza wrote. “As I watched the videos, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I saw officers being brutalized and beaten, and protesters defying orders to stay back from entering the Capitol. All the while, I kept thinking,  ‘Where is the President? Why is it taking so long for the National Guard to arrive? Where is the cavalry!?’

Garza faulted Republican members of Congress who lied “on TV and in remarks to reporters and constituents about what happened that day.” And the ongoing campaign of dishonesty, she reasons continues to victimize those that were physically attacked on Jan. 6.

“By denying or downplaying the viciousness and trauma that occurred on January 6, members of Congress and the people who continue echoing their false narrative are engaging in a specific kind of psychological harm that is familiar to people who work in mental health,” wrote Garza.  “It’s known as ‘secondary wounding.’ Secondary wounding, described by psychologist Aphrodite Matsakis, occurs when people ‘minimize or discount the magnitude of the event, its meaning to the victim, [or] its impact on the victim’s life.”

Garza continued. “To know that some members of Congress — along with the former President, Donald Trump, who Brian and I once supported but who can only now be viewed as the mastermind of that horrible attack — are not acknowledging Brian’s heroism that day is unforgivable and un-American.”

Indeed.

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