Conspiracy theories paint fraudulent reality of Jan. 6 riot
Supporters loyal to President Donald Trump attend a rally on the Ellipse near the White House on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. Image via AP.

jan 6 riot
Members of Congress, including Rep. Matt Gaetz, have helped spread the theories.

Millions of Americans watched the events in Washington last Jan. 6 unfold on live television. Police officers testified to the violence and mayhem. Criminal proceedings in open court detailed what happened.

Yet the hoaxes, conspiracy theories and attempts to rewrite history persist, muddying the public’s understanding of what actually occurred during the most sustained attack on the seat of American democracy since the War of 1812.

By excusing former President Donald Trump of responsibility, minimizing the mob’s violence and casting the rioters as martyrs, falsehoods about the insurrection aim to deflect blame for Jan. 6 while sustaining Trump’s unfounded claims about the free and fair election in 2020 that he lost.

Spread by politicians, broadcast by cable news pundits and amplified by social media, the falsehoods are a stark reminder of how many Americans may no longer trust their own institutions or their own eyes.

Several different conspiracy theories have emerged in the year since the insurrection, according to an analysis of online content by media intelligence firm Zignal Labs on behalf of The Associated Press. Unfounded claims that the rioters were members of antifa went viral first, only to be overtaken by a baseless claim blaming FBI operatives. Other theories say the rioters were peaceful and were framed for crimes that never happened.


Conspiracy theories have long lurked in the background of American history, said Dustin Carnahan, a Michigan State University professor who studies political misinformation. But they can become dangerous when they lead people to distrust democracy or to excuse or embrace violence.

“If we’re no longer operating from the same foundation of facts, then it’s going to be a lot harder to have conversations as a country,” Carnahan said. “It will fuel more divisions in our country, and I think that ultimately is the legacy of the misinformation we’re seeing right now.”

An examination of some of the top falsehoods about the Capitol riot and the people who have spread them:

Claim: The rioters weren’t Trump supporters

In fact, many of those who came to the Capitol on Jan. 6 have said — proudly, publicly, repeatedly — that they did so to help the then-president.

Different versions of the claim suggest they were FBI operatives or members of the anti-fascist movement antifa.

“Earlier today, the Capitol was under siege by people who can only be described as antithetical to the MAGA movement,” Laura Ingraham said on her Fox News show the night of Jan. 6, referring to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. “They were likely not all Trump supporters, and there are some reports that antifa sympathizers may have been sprinkled throughout the crowd.”

The next day, Ingraham acknowledged the inaccuracy when she tweeted a link to a story debunking the claim.

Another Fox host, Tucker Carlson, has spread the idea that the FBI orchestrated the riot. He cites as evidence the indictments of some Jan. 6 suspects that mention unindicted co-conspirators, a common legal term that merely refers to suspects who haven’t been charged, and not evidence of undercover agents or informants.

Yet Carlson claimed on his show that “in potentially every single case, they were FBI operatives.”

Carlson is a “main driver” of the idea that Jan. 6 was perpetrated by agents of the government, according to Zignal’s report. It found the claim spiked in October when Carlson released a documentary series about the insurrection.

Members of Congress, including Rep. Matt Gaetz have helped spread the theories.

“Some of the people who breached the Capitol today were not Trump supporters, they were masquerading as Trump supporters and, in fact, were members of the violent terrorist group antifa,” Gaetz said.

Spokespeople for Carlson and Gaetz say they stand by their claims.

In truth, the rioters are just who they said they were.

One was a recently elected state lawmaker from West Virginia, a Republican Trump supporter named Derrick Evans who resigned following his arrest. Evans streamed video of himself illegally entering the Capitol.

“They’re making an announcement now saying if Pence betrays us you better get your mind right because we’re storming the building,” Evans said on the video. “The door is cracked! … We’re in, we’re in! Derrick Evans is in the Capitol!” Vice President Mike Pence was in the building to preside over the Senate’s certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory. Pence went ahead despite Trump’s pleas to get Pence to block the transfer of power.

During testimony before Congress, FBI Director Christopher Wray was asked whether there was any reason to believe the insurrection was organized by “fake Trump protesters.”

“We have not seen evidence of that,” said Wray, who was appointed by Trump.


Claim: The rioters weren’t violent

Dozens of police officers were severely injured. One Capitol Police officer who was attacked and assaulted with bear spray suffered a stroke and died a day later of natural causes.

Former Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, who rushed to the scene, said he was “grabbed, beaten, tased, all while being called a traitor to my country.” The assault stopped only when he said he had children. He later learned he had suffered a heart attack. Fanone resigned from the department in December 2021.

Rioters broke into the Senate chamber minutes after senators had fled under armed protection. They rifled through desks and looked for lawmakers, yelling, “Where are they?” In House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, staffers hid under desks while rioters called out the name of the California Democrat.

That’s not how some Republican politicians have described the insurrection.

Appearing on Ingraham’s show in May, Sen. Ron Johnson said he condemned the Capitol breach as well as the violence, but said it was wrong to term it an insurrection.

“By and large it was a peaceful protest, except for there were a number of people, basically agitators, that whipped the crowd and breached the Capitol,” Johnson said.

Johnson has since said that he doesn’t want the violent actions of a few to be used to impugn all.

Rep. Andrew Clyde, after watching video footage of rioters walking through the Capitol, said it resembled a “normal tourist visit.” Other video evidence from Jan. 6 showed Clyde, a Georgia Republican, helping barricade the House doors in an attempt to keep the rioters out.

Trump called the insurrection a display of “ spirit and faith and love.”

Rioters also broke windows and doors, stole items from offices and caused an estimated $1.5 million in damage. Outside the Capitol someone set up a gallows with a noose.

“The notion that this was somehow a tourist event is disgraceful and despicable,” Rep. Liz Cheney said in May. “And, you know, I won’t be part of whitewashing what happened on Jan. 6. Nobody should be part of it. And people ought to be held accountable.”


Claim: Trump did not encourage the rioters

Trump may now want to minimize his involvement, but he spent months sounding a steady drumbeat of conspiracy theory and grievance, urging his followers to fight to somehow return him to power.

“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” Trump tweeted on Dec. 19, 2020. “Be there, will be wild!”

Immediately before the mob stormed the Capitol, Trump spoke for more than an hour, telling his supporters they had been “cheated” and “defrauded” in the “rigged” election by a “criminal enterprise” that included lawmakers who were now meeting in the Capitol.

At one point, Trump did urge his supporters to “peacefully and patriotically make your voice heard.” The rest of his speech was filled with hostile rhetoric.

“We fight. We fight like hell,” he told those who would later break into the Capitol. “And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Now, Trump says he had nothing to do with the riot.

“I wasn’t involved in that, and if you look at my words and what I said in the speech, they were extremely calming actually,” Trump said on Fox News in December.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe Trump bears some responsibility for the Capitol breach, according to a survey last year by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.


Claim: Ashli Babbitt was killed by an officer working for Democrats

Babbitt died after being shot in the shoulder by a lieutenant in the Capitol Police force as she and others pressed to enter the Speaker’s Lobby outside the House chamber.

Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran, was unarmed. An investigation cleared the officer of wrongdoing.

The Capitol Police Department protects all members of Congress, as well as employees, the public and Capitol facilities. The officer wasn’t assigned to any particular lawmaker.

Trump falsely claimed the officer was the head of security “for a certain high official, a Democrat,” and was being shielded from accountability. He also misstated where Babbitt was shot.

“Who is the person that shot … an innocent, wonderful, incredible woman, a military woman, right in the head?” Trump asked on Fox News.


Claim: The Jan. 6 suspects are political prisoners and are being mistreated

No, they are not, despite some assertions from members of Congress.

“J6 defendants are political prisoners of war,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted in November. She said she had visited some suspects in jail who complained about the food, medical care and “re-education” they were receiving in custody.

Rep. Paul Gosar said the Justice Department was “harassing peaceful patriots” by investigating their involvement in the insurrection.

While it’s true some of the suspects have complained about their time in jail, it’s wrong to argue they’re being held as political prisoners. Authorities have said the suspects in custody are being given the same access to food and medical care as any other inmate.

One of the most notorious rioters, Jacob Chansley, known as the QAnon Shaman, was given organic food in his jail cell after he complained about the food options.


Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

Associated Press


  • Alex

    January 1, 2022 at 12:12 pm

    And this is but a small subset of all of the GOP conspiracy theories, none of which have turned out to be true.

    Vince Foster, Clinton sold rocket secrets to China by blowing one up where they could get the bits, Benghazi, Hillary/Obama sold uranium to russia, Seth somebody, Obama’s birth certificate, pizzagate, pedo island, Qanon, and many more I’ve forgotten.

    Then there is Trump.
    The ones he made up probably number in the hundreds, and there are entire websites dedicated to Trump’s nonsense.

    My favorites are the Deep State coup, Antifa is everywhere, Obama wiretapped him, the Ukraine nonsense, and of course the Big Lie that the election was stolen.

    The newer ones are Fauci helped China to produce and spread covid, CRT/public schoolteachers are teaching kids to hate white people, Biden has dementia and works for China, and the Deep State is still busy pushing for communism.

    Not one has turned out to be true.

    You’d think after so many failures the republicans would figure it out, but it seems to be imbedded in their culture.

    • Sister Irene Adler, Bishop Norton Academy of the Lost

      January 1, 2022 at 12:47 pm

      My favorite conspiracy theory is the “stolen election,” which is especially delicious when claimed by white supremacists. So here we have these nazis and other self-proclaimed superior white people downright apoplectic because thousands and thousand of those inferior pesky people of pigment somehow all got together and stole the election! And got Republican state leaders to go along! Those superior whites can’t quite put their finger on how their inferiors managed to do it — oh, they have their theories, but even Trump-appointed judges have told them their theories are bullshit, excuse my Francaise — so they are left looking and sounding so…so intellectually inferior. Because, after all, according to their own proclamations, they have been outwitted. Bless their hearts.

    • PeterH

      January 1, 2022 at 2:05 pm

      …..and if today’s Republicans repeat the lies often enough …. People believe the lies. It’s quite unbelievable really!

  • Don’t Look Up

    January 1, 2022 at 4:18 pm

    Conspiracy theories, lying, racism false flags and voter suppression are weapons in today’s Republican arsenal to win elections. Unfortunately for complacent Americans…. the longer they listen to the narrative….. the more they become accustomed to believing the lies.

  • Jerry

    January 1, 2022 at 7:01 pm

    Yeah? What about the Russia collusion hoax? We spent 4 years of investigations, millions of dollars, and endless media attention on a wild goose chase that went nowhere. Mueller’s testimony to congress was an embarrassment and Democrats couldnt wait to move to the next manufactured scandal. Yet now when Republicans raise questions about the 2020 election, you liberals call it “misinformation?”

    Jan 6th was manufactured. The capitol police allowed the rioters in. It was all planned. Did no one ever read history? Create a crisis and then the government can claim that crisis as justification for what it wants done. COVID and Jan 6th are twp crisises that the Democrats are trying to exploit to their full potential. They want to vastly expand the federal government, take over state election laws, and limit political opposition. Guess what…..we won’t let them. Patriots are going to fight back.

  • Impeach Biden

    January 1, 2022 at 7:42 pm

    Wow. Not a word. Not a single word about the nearly 2 million illegals from over 150 countries crossing into the USA. Is that a conspiracy? Are those people tested / vaccinated? Yet here we have the zombies (Biden voters) lined up and waiting for hours for a Covid test. Most are asymptotic but these people are afraid all due to Fauci, CNN, and MSNBC.

    • Don’t Look Up

      January 1, 2022 at 7:57 pm

      Don’t Look Up! 👀

      Look over here instead!

      • Impeach Biden

        January 2, 2022 at 8:21 am

        Keep your head on a swivel. The “Red Storm” is coming.

        • Tom

          January 2, 2022 at 10:40 am

          They are not allowed to swivel.
          As Manchurians they March to China and NBC Comcast orders.
          Elmo weasel Peter h, Alex, ocean do and say what’s told, lock step.

          Elmo peter h actuality has said repeatedly, referring to the border crossers as “illegal” is a lie. Go figure. 2 million illegals, criminals, terrorists, Covid, cross over and Elmo peter h lies defending them. Disgraceful.

      • Tom

        January 2, 2022 at 11:10 am

        Yes Don’t Kook,
        Correct you idiot Manchurian.
        Talk bout the dodge.
        In October Biden and his incompetents didn’t order the take home tests. I repeat they did not order them! Oh if 45 had not done so. Hypocrites.
        Incompetent Biden has not reauthorized therapeutics Regeneron.
        Incompetent too for over to authorize new therapeutics, purposefully as they want shots.
        No FDA commish confirmed yet, one year in. Disgraceful.
        Independents have abandoned the incompetent Biden, Dems
        Hispanics have also.
        You have a shellacking coming.
        Enjoy it.

    • Tom

      January 2, 2022 at 9:17 am

      Yes impeach Biden, Elmo weasel peter h states no illegals crossing. Yes, he says that’s a lie. This from the Lincoln Org predator advocate of Schmidt/Wilson. Who isproviding conspiracies and perpetuating racism with that whopper.

      This newbie now, don’t look up. What a crock of manure. Alex perpetuates socialism and lies, ocean joe never never acknowledges the lefts failures. Sistas got a get her groove. Sista uncross your legs.
      The biggest lie, conspiracy is the lefts voter suppression lie. Everyone votes. No one is denied. Just go vote.

    • Concern Citizen

      January 2, 2022 at 9:21 am

      We need to get Trump’s Space Force in action to MAGA.
      The Martians are responsible for Jan 6, and voters fraud. They are the illegals crossing into the USA with Covid. I have a reliable source for this information — it is from Matt Damon.

      • Tom

        January 2, 2022 at 11:01 am

        Another idiot, unconcerned non citizen. So ignorant.

        • Concern Citizen

          January 2, 2022 at 12:01 pm

          Tom, you believe in BS and lies, why can’t I?

          • Alex

            January 2, 2022 at 12:06 pm


      • Don’t Look Up

        January 2, 2022 at 11:17 am

        Don’t Look Up! 👀 You might see something…. Like reality!

  • Ocean Joe

    January 2, 2022 at 8:54 am

    These same gin soaked Fox-aholics lap this stuff up, but if Fox or OAN lied to them about the score of a football game they wouldn’t put up with it for a second.

  • Tom

    January 2, 2022 at 8:59 am

    The co-conspirators strike again, Alex, Sista, weasel elmo peter h, don’t look. What a crock,
    What an embarrassment you Manchurian tom a tons outline, in liberal sync.
    Yes, red wave coming.

  • Tom

    January 2, 2022 at 9:01 am

    Ocean too, LOL
    You are all Manchurian tom a tons mind meld.
    Where’s J D? LMAO.

    • Don’t Look Up

      January 2, 2022 at 11:19 am

      Don’t Look Up Tom ….. look down! 👀 There are at least three MANCHURIANS under your bed! LOL

      • Tom

        January 2, 2022 at 4:12 pm

        You sick mental Manchurians.
        You got nothing, no issues, people or purpose. Just ignoramuses with fake non conspiracies.
        You stand for illegals, corruption, incompetence with Biden/Harris, no economic hope or future.
        Jan 6, Trump, Wah, Wah. None of you can look at all. Manchurian bubble, watch MSDNC China doll.
        Get ready for your ass kicking in Nov.

        • Don’t Look Up

          January 2, 2022 at 4:40 pm


          Donald Trump: Jan. 22, Twitter:

          “One of the many great things about our just signed giant Trade Deal with China is that it will bring both the USA & China closer together in so many other ways. Terrific working with President Xi, a man who truly loves his country. Much more to come!”

          Don’t look up Tom….. LOOK OVER HERE!

  • Tom

    January 3, 2022 at 12:03 pm

    You look through your ass. But can’t look up!
    Total B S.
    Obama kissed ass all over the world.
    They have statues in countries.
    Biden’s debacle in Afghan is horrendous.
    The reeds deal has been better compared to previous one.
    You can’t play work me, I am a legend with FP.

    • FP Monitor

      January 3, 2022 at 12:49 pm

      It’s a big mistake to respond to anything Tom posts. He’s an arrogant ignorant Trumpster hack simply looking for the attention he doesn’t get from friends or family. Do yourself and ALL OF US a big favor. Ignore all of his return comments. Maybe the internet troll will go away.

  • Tom

    January 3, 2022 at 3:15 pm

    Kiss my ass you male organ.
    You abs your and msnchurians cannot defend yourselves!

Comments are closed.


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