Prosecutors call out Fox News’ Jan. 6 spin for omitting damning footage of “QAnon shaman”

New court filing refutes Tucker Carlson's attempts to reframe the attack on the Capitol as peaceful

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published March 13, 2023 8:54AM (EDT)

Jacob Chansley, also known as the "QAnon Shaman," screams "Freedom" inside the U.S. Senate chamber after the U.S. Capitol was breached by a mob during a joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Jacob Chansley, also known as the "QAnon Shaman," screams "Freedom" inside the U.S. Senate chamber after the U.S. Capitol was breached by a mob during a joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Prosecutors on Sunday said that Fox News host Tucker Carlson's segment showing "QAnon shaman" Jacob Chansley at the Capitol on Jan. 6 omitted key footage.

Carlson, who received exclusive access to thousands of hours of footage from the attack on the Capitol from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., last week aired a segment showing Chansley walking through the Capitol accompanied by police officers, one of whom at one point opened a door for him.

"Virtually every moment of his time inside the Capitol was caught on tape," Carlson said on Monday. "The tapes show the Capitol Police never stopped Jacob Chansley. They helped him. They acted as his tour guides."

But Justice Department prosecutors involved in the seditious conspiracy trial of five Proud Boys leaders including Dominic Pezzola said in a court filing over the weekend that the video only shows four minutes of Chansley inside the Capitol after he had already been inside for over 40 minutes.

"Prior to that time, Chansley had, amongst other acts, breached a police line at 2:09 p.m. with the mob, entered the Capitol less than one minute behind Pezzola during the initial breach of the building, and faced off with members of the U.S. Capitol Police for more than thirty minutes in front of the Senate Chamber doors while elected officials, including the Vice President of the United States, were fleeing from the chamber," the filing said.

Prosecutors added that Chansley "was not some passive, chaperoned observer of events for the roughly hour that he was unlawfully inside the Capitol."

The filing added that Capitol Police officers had been overwhelmed by the rioters and were trying to minimize the damage.

 "For a period that afternoon, those defending the Capitol were in triage mode — trying to deal with the most violent element of those unlawfully present, holding those portions of the Capitol that had not yet been seized by rioters, and protecting those Members and staffers who were still trapped in the Capitol," the filing said.

Prosecutors said that "it is true that a sole officer, who was trying to de-escalate the situation, was with Chansley as he made his way to the Senate floor after initially breaching the Chamber."

"But the televised footage fails to show that Chansley subsequently refused to be escorted out by this lone officer and instead left the Capitol only after additional officers arrived and forcibly escorted him out," the filing added.

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Chansley, who is not accused of violence, pleaded guilty to obstruction in 2001 and was sentenced to 41 months in prison. He is scheduled to be released in July, according to Politico.

Chanley's allies have argued that the video aired on Fox News could have helped his defense but the Justice Department said in the filing that it sent all but 10 seconds of the footage to Chanlsey's lawyer in September 2021, about three weeks after he pleaded guilty but more than a month before his sentencing, according to Politico.

Chanley's attorney William Shipley told the outlet that the DOJ was more focused on the substance of the video than whether it had violated Chanlsey's rights by not turning over the video before his plea.

"The Government knows its lawful obligations, and artfully avoided making a positive assertion that it complied with them in a timely fashion as to Mr. Chansley," he said.

The filing on Sunday came after attorneys for Pezzola argued that the footage aired by Carlson means that the entire case should be dismissed because of prosecutorial misconduct.

"Once tethered to facts and reality," prosecutors wrote, "defendant Pezzola's arguments quickly unravel."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Aggregate Capitol Riot Fox News January 6 Politics Tucker Carlson