On ABC News on Thursday, after the latest hearing of the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Heidi Heitkamp used words that were appropriate: “It’s absolutely incredible. It’s amazing.”
This was accurate. But what Jake Tapper said on CNN was even more so.
“An evening of testimony that was frankly infuriating,” Tapper said. “Donald Trump, after sending to the Capitol a mob, some of who were armed, all of whom were angry because of Trump’s months of lies about the election, Trump sending them with the clear purpose of stopping the election, stopping democracy. All that happening and the president refused to act to stop the violence.”
That was the gist of the hearing, which, as it turns out, will not be the last.
“Consider tonight the finale of Season 1,” Jamie Gangel said on CNN. “We will be back in September with more hearings.”
Rep. Liz Cheney, the vice-chair of the committee confirmed this, although Thursday night will be tough to top in terms of drama and incriminating evidence.
Or stunning TV.
In a night of wild moments, two images were most memorable
The hearing stretched nearly three hours, longer than most, and was stuffed with testimony and footage that was jaw-dropping — not hyperbole in this case.
But there were two things that really stood out among the many. One was the juxtaposition of Sen. Josh Hawley making his infamous fist-raising to the mob that would soon attack the Capitol with footage of him later running to get away once the rioters had breached the building.
Viewers saw this not long after Hawley appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News — which, like the last time one of the hearings was held during prime time, skipped out on live coverage, shunting it off to the much smaller Fox Business.
It would have been funny if it weren’t so pathetic. (Twitter did its Twitter thing and set the video to the theme from “Chariots of Fire,” among other music, within minutes.)
But there was nothing funny about the other big takeaway — the revelation from a White House security official that the Secret Service detail protecting Vice President Mike Pence, who refused to carry out Trump’s scheme to overturn the election, feared that the mob would kill them.
“I don’t like talking about it,” the official, whose voice was altered, said in taped testimony, “but there were calls to say goodbye to family members, so on and so forth.”
Incredible cynicism, and not much else from Fox News
If they ever make a movie about all this, it will be called “187 Minutes.” That’s how long it took Trump to tell the mob to stand down — action he took begrudgingly, we learned through outtakes of his video message to supporters that actually began, you may recall, with him repeating the false claim that the election was stolen from him.
Outtakes from a statement the next day showed him unwilling to say that the election was over. How does anyone watch this and not come to the conclusion that this was all planned? That isn’t still a huge story?
Watching Fox News is one way. The shameless, irresponsible yet hugely popular lineup of Tucker Carlson, Hannity and Laura Ingraham once again either ignored or belittled the hearings. Carlson mostly avoided talking about the hearing, other than noting all the other networks were showing it.
“Now why are they doing that?” he said. “No one wants to watch it. You know what happened on Jan. 6. Some guy in Viking horns wandered around on mushrooms and made weird noises and that was kind of it.” How breathtakingly cynical a thing to say, as the committee showed video of the mob violently breaking into the Capitol and threatening violence against members of congress.
Hannity, for his part, called it “Their big dramatic prime time grand finale playing out on Capitol Hill. Soon the latest obsessive partisan anti-Trump smear will come to a pathetic end, at least for now.”
So Hannity probably missed the part where they showed his texts to Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, begging him to get Trump to call off the mob.
This wasn’t partisan. Just astounding television
Rep. Adam Kinzinger — a Republican — didn’t mince words toward the end of the hearing.
“Whatever your politics, whatever you think about the outcome of the election, we as Americans must all agree on this: Donald Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6 was a supreme violation of his oath of office and a complete dereliction of his duty to our nation,” he said. “It is a stain on our history. It is a dishonor to all those who have sacrificed and died in service to our democracy.”
He’s not wrong.
Cheney, in her closing remarks, looked ahead — not only to future hearings, but future elections. “Can a president who is willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of Jan. 6 ever be trusted with any position of authority in our great nation again?” she said.
Later, she closed the proceedings with this: “We have much work yet to do and we will see you all in September.”
I can’t speak for Fox News, but the rest of us will.