Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz make statements on the Jan 6 anniversary in Washington, DC. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
It’s fair to say that, of all the days, the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol was probably never going to be one full of reasonable takes—especially not from elected officials who continue to peddle revisionist narratives about what actually happened that day.
As of Thursday morning, the internet —or, more specifically, Twitter, Getter, Gab, Parler, and Telegram— were alight with all kinds of whataboutism, martyrization, half-baked conspiracies, lies, or otherwise galaxy-brained commentary.
Arizona State Sen. Wendy Rogers, known for being a member of the Oath Keepers, an anti-government militia whose members are accused of participating in the Jan. 6 attack, started the day with an especially colorful tweet. “1st they said we clung to our “guns or religion.” Then they called us “deplorable and irredeemable”. Then they called us insurrectionists,” she wrote. “Enough of the gaslighting from the Satanic communists who are the real insurrectionists who need Jesus! Turn from your wicked ways, commies!”
Rogers dropped a couple more takes on her page on Gettr, the pro-Trump “cancel-free” social media network.
“We are currently under a Big Pharma insurrection,” and, “No matter how bad it gets, Jesus already won and is coming back. I love you all. Keep pushing!”
It’s important to consider this kind of rhetoric in the context of recent surveys about the American public’s beliefs about the 2020 election and the events at the Capitol. Multiple recent surveys have found that two-thirds of GOP respondents believe the baseless conspiracy that the presidency was stolen from Trump. Another recent survey exposed deep partisan divides in the capitol breach and its aftermath. While 96 percent of Democrats think Congress should continue its investigation into the events of Jan. 6, only 41 percent of Republicans feel the same way. The survey also found that 39 percent of Republican voters believe that elected Democrats are to blame for the riot.
Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene used the anniversary as an opportunity to hold a press conference and cast doubt on the facts of Jan. 6.
“We are here to expose the truth and ask key questions about the extent to which the federal government was involved,” Gaetz said. “January 6 was not an insurrection… [but] there may very well have been a fedsurrection.”
The central focus of their press conference was Ray Epps, whose name has been simmering for months in right-wing circles. Epps initially appeared on the FBI’s list of individuals wanted in connection with the events at the Capitol, and was ultimately identified by local news outlets as a resident of Arizona, and a leading member in the local Oath Keepers chapter. But in July, his name was removed from the FBI’s website. His removal, and the fact that video showed him figuring prominently on the frontlines of the riot while encouraging others to enter the Capitol, has led to wild speculation that he was a government agent on a mission to destroy the MAGA movement.
Revolver, a blog run by Darren Beattie, a Trump speechwriter, ran the ambitious headline “Meet Ray Epps: The Fed-Protected Provocateur Who Appears To Have Led The Very First 1/6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol” in October. Fox News host Tucker Carlson also amplified this narrative in his documentary series.
The “evidence” that Epps was a government agent is thin, at best —and there are other possible explanations for why the FBI removed his image. Still, the fact that the Justice Department has declined to comment has only fueled the conspiracy.
Other lawmakers hinted at a government conspiracy in a more subtle way.
GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn kept his speculation simple: “Who is Ray Epps?” he asked on Twitter, before later adding a follow up:“What did Nancy Pelosi know on January 6th?”
Cawthorn and other GOP officials including Rep. Andy Biggs resurfaced images from the racial justice protest movement that swept the U.S. in the summer of 2020, asking why Congress wasn’t investigating the aftermath of some of those events.
Oklahoma State Sen. Nathan Dahm, who is known for his MAGA politics, marked January 6 through legislation: On Thursday he introduced the “Prohibition on Political Prisoners in Oklahoma Act.” His bill would ban the federal government from transporting “any political prisoners through Oklahoma airspace.”
“January 6th was NOT an insurrection no matter how much the fake news media pushes tha narrative the next few days,” Dahm wrote on Twitter.
And Steve Bannon, a former Trump adviser who is not an elected official but wields influence on the MAGA conspiracy set through his War Room podcast, also chimed in on the day’s events.
“The Biden Regime is illegitimate. Trump won and we’re not going to stop for one second. It’s outrageous that they would try to connect the honored dead of Pearl Harbor and 9/11 to the events of 6 Jan,” he ranted on Gettr. On Thursday, he also had some special guests on his show: Beattie from the pro-Trump blog Revolver, and Reps. Gaetz and Greene.