WASHINGTON – A conservative TV channel is presenting viewers with an “alternate universe” of how the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol unfolded on Jan. 6, 2021, a new research report finds.
Newsmax has broadcast at least 40 false claims or conspiracy theories about the attack since June, when a House committee began televising its evidence about the role former President Donald Trump and his allies played in the day's events, according to NewsGuard, a tech firm that monitors misinformation.
“If you’re watching Newsmax, you may come away with an entirely different feeling of what happened at the hearings, and what happened on Jan. 6,” NewsGuard analyst Jack Brewster said of the findings.
Many of the falsehoods, presented by anchors, reporters and guests who include Republican members of Congress, have been repeatedly debunked. Newsmax did not comment on the report.
Anchors and guests have claimed that there were only a few hundred rioters or that they were “unarmed,” despite photos taken from that day and federal charges that show some were armed with guns or used pepper spray, flagpoles and stun guns as weapons. The Department of Justice estimates at least 2,000 people entered the U.S. Capitol.
Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified last month that Trump had been informed protesters were armed with weapons.
Another false claim that Trump ordered National Guard troops to the scene, only to be blocked by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was repeated 11 times since the Jan. 6 committee began its hearings on June 9, for example. That misinformation was proven false more than a year ago: Pelosi doesn’t direct the National Guard.
The false claims broadcast on the Trump-friendly Newsmax echo the misleading defenses regularly offered by Trump, as well as his allies, about the violent day at the U.S. Capitol. Newsmax is also named in a defamation lawsuit brought by vote-counting machine maker Dominion Voting Systems for baseless claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent -- the falsehood that spurred many protestors turned rioters to travel to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Newsmax, which is available on most cable, satellite and streaming services, is watched by roughly 200,000 viewers daily. Brewster, who has been monitoring television misinformation around the Jan. 6 hearings, said Newsmax has most regularly aired falsehoods about the insurrection compared to other conservative TV channels.
“I was most shocked by the durability of these claims,” Brewster said. “These are false claims that are not new. A lot of them have been repeated ad nauseum.”
Newsmax has not livestreamed the hearings in full, and in a June press release described the hearings as “political theater.”
A Jan. 6 hearing is scheduled for primetime Thursday.