A new conspiracy theory flowed from many in right-wing media and other conservatives after a large group of far-right, extremist Trump supporters stormed and occupied the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday: According to the completely unsubstantiated claims, antifa did it.
The conservative mob broke past police barriers and shattered windows to enter the Capitol to protest the certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, but they quickly turned violent once the joint session of Congress began, attacking Capitol Police, assaulting the Capitol building itself and occupying it for hours as members of Congress went into lockdown.
But many notable conservatives immediately attempted to shift the blame away from the far-right mob, which was incited by months of violent rhetoric from Donald Trump as he attempted to overturn Biden’s victory with bogus claims of voter fraud. These conservatives, which included washed-up actor Kevin Sorbo, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, and Sean Hannity, Brit Hume and Mark Levin of Fox News, wanted to shift the blame to leftists and liberals — without any evidence whatsoever.
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, joined the fray during his comments when the Electoral College certification proceedings resumed late Wednesday night.
“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, also “Antifa” is not actually an organization, but rather an ideology.
Holy shit. Matt Gaetz just said, "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." pic.twitter.com/nKYecLmQEX
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 7, 2021
Gaetz’s claim is without merit, as the facial recognition company he cites as evidence says the whole thing is a big lie.
Gaetz wasn’t the only member of the House of Representatives to get in on this, as Mo Brooks of Alabama also tweeted about it.
Evidence mounts that fascist ANTIFA infiltrated Trump rally & stormed Capitol.
I don’t know the true facts yet, and neither does 99.99% of public.
I suggest no rush to judgment until an investigation reveals whatever the truth may be.
— Mo Brooks (@RepMoBrooks) January 7, 2021
Hannity, meanwhile, floated the conspiracy multiple times on Wednesday, first on his radio show and again later on his Fox News show.
“Then we had the reports that groups like antifa, other radical groups — I don’t know the names of all of them — that they were there to cause trouble,” Hannity said on the radio, without citing any evidence whatsoever.
On TV, Hannity suggested the blame for the riot could belong to the more vague concept of “bad actors.” “We also knew that there’s also bad actors that will infiltrate large crowds,” he said during his opening segment. He dropped a couple more references to this idea later in the show.
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin also spread the “antifa” conspiracy theory on Fox News earlier in the day. “We don’t know who all were the instigators in this, these horrible thing that happen today. I think a lot of it is the antifa folks,” Palin said.
Newsmax reporter Emerald Robinson also spread this “antifa” bit on the air on her network.
“I am hearing from some people on the ground that there is a question of if antifa has infiltrated the Trump rally goers and are fomenting some kind of unrest,” Robinson said. And anchor Tom Basile chimed in with his agreement.
“That has happened before. I think that’s very important to, very important to note,” Basile said, though it wasn’t clear what he was referencing.
Lindell also did this same bit during a NewsMax interview. “There were probably some undercover antifa that dressed as Trump people,” he said.
For the most part, these baseless “antifa” theories came on Twitter, where we’ll find Sorbo, Hume, Candace Owens, Ann Coulter, Breitbart editor John Nolte and more. You can read a sampling of these below.
My hope is that all violent agitators are arrested and their names are revealed publicly.
Call it a hunch, but my guess is there are still ANTIFA thugs in the mix.
— Candace Owens (@RealCandaceO) January 6, 2021
Do not be surprised if we learn in the days ahead that the Trump rioters were infiltrated by leftist extremists. Note: this is not to excuse any of them.
— Brit Hume (@brithume) January 7, 2021
No one can mistake the guy with that tattoo. This group, especially the short one, looks like antifa.
Can we find out? https://t.co/RFSalUcc8F
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) January 6, 2021
Anyone breaching the Capitol Building should immediately stand down. We don't know who these people are. That will have to be determined. People came to protest peacefully. And that is their constitutional right. But we condemn and must condemn anyone who acts lawlessly, period
— Mark R. Levin (@marklevinshow) January 6, 2021
ANTIFA led the charge into the capitol building dressed as Trump supporters.
— Kevin Sorbo (@ksorbs) January 6, 2021
Media is assuming that all these violent protesters are Trump supporters. Some on social media are saying they are antifa, I don't know until proved otherwise.
— Chuck Woolery (@chuckwoolery) January 6, 2021
NO TO VIOLENCE
And there are reports that Antifa has infiltrated this.
— Bo Snerdley (@BoSnerdley) January 6, 2021
Expect more of this in the days to come.