Posted by on June 21, 2022 1:35 pm
Categories: News The Hill

Carlson, GOP seize on Colbert crew arrest to float Jan. 6 comparison

Republicans and conservative pundits are seizing on the arrest of seven people at the U.S. Capitol last week who were part of a television crew working for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” comparing the arrests to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol in which dozens of people were injured and several died.

Soon after the arrests had been reported on Friday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson was accusing the comedy television team of committing “insurrection.”

On Monday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) penned a letter to U.S. Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger demanding more information on the arrest of the seven individuals working for “The Late Show.”

The seven people connected to CBS who were charged in the incident — including Robert Smigel, a comedian who performs with the Triumph the Insult Comic Dog puppet — were charged with unlawful entry after police got a call of a disturbance in the Longworth House building, police said.

CBS said in a statement that the crew’s work at the Capitol had been “authorized and pre-arranged through Congressional aides of the members interviewed.”

“After leaving the members’ offices on their last interview of the day, the production team stayed to film stand-ups and other final comedy elements in the halls when they were detained by Capitol Police,” the network said.

The arrests come as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol conduct hearings on the riot, which Republicans and pundits like Carlson have dismissed as partisan and lacking merit.

Carlson sought to tie Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a frequent GOP target who led the first House impeachment case against former President Trump, to the incident.

“Last night, producers from Stephen Colbert’s show on CBS committed insurrection at the United States Capitol,” Carlson said on his prime-time show on Friday night. The top-rated conservative pundit named Schiff who some congressional Republicans have suggested was in touch with Colbert’s crew ahead of the filming.

Colbert said during his show Monday that multiple lawmakers, from both parties, agreed to the sit-downs for the segment. 

Leaning into the Jan. 6 comparison, Carlson said Schiff “has spent the last year and a half telling you that unauthorized violations of capitol space are a coup.”

During the Jan. 6 riot, hundreds of pro-Trump supporters overwhelmed Capitol Police to enter the building, forcing the evacuation of lawmakers were were holding a joint session to certify President Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.

Members of the mob through their own public statements indicated they meant to stop the lawful certification being held by Congress. Trump and his allies before Jan. 6 repeatedly told their supporters, falsely, that the election had been stolen.

Five deaths were connected to the events of Jan. 6, in addition to dozens of injuries.

There were no reports of injuries in the Capitol Police arrest of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog’s human companions.

Jordan also drew a comparison between Jan. 6 and the Colbert crew, likening reconnaissance by the comedy group to allegations that GOP lawmakers gave tours to people who were a part of the Jan. 6 mob ahead of the attack.

“Much has been made lately about unauthorized access to House office buildings, including debunked Democrat allegations that Republican members led so-called reconnaissance tours of the Capitol Complex in advance of January 6,” Jordan said in reference to recently-revealed video from the committee showing Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) giving a tour of the Capitol to people later identified as having been present during the riot. 

“Unlike the Democrat allegations of reconnaissance tours, however, the events on June 16 actually resulted in arrests for unlawful entry. To help us understand how these individuals could gain access to the House office buildings after hours and roam the complex unescorted with the apparent intent of harassing Republican offices, we respectfully request the following material.”

Loudermilk’s tour was given when the Capitol complex was otherwise closed to visitors due to the pandemic.

Jordan’s letter also mentioned Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), whose office confirmed he had been interviewed by the CBS crew. 

“Our contact with them ended well before the building closed for the evening,” Auchincloss’s office said. “We do not condone any inappropriate activity and cannot speak to anything that occurred after hours.”

Jordan appeared on Jesse Watters’s newly-launched prime-time talk program on Monday, which proceeds Carlson’s on Fox, and reiterated the comparison to the Capitol riot while knocking the committee.

Watters displayed Manger’s phone number on the screen for his viewers after calling the incident involving the production crew a “horrific breach of the Capitol.”

“When the Republicans take the House, we expect hearings,” Watters panned. “What did Schiff know and when did he know it?”

Other conservative pundits and personalities over the weekend took to social media to decry the arrests and mock the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

“It’s time for a Stephen Colbert committee after we throw him and his producers in solitary for 17 months,” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) wrote in one tweet.

“Colbert op exposes January 6 absurdities,” added conservative activist Tom Fitton.

Colbert addressed the criticism coming from Republicans during Monday’s Late Show.

“The Capitol Police were just doing their job. My staff was just doing their job. Everyone was very professional. Everyone was very calm. My staffers were detained, processed and released,” the comedian and host said. “A very unpleasant experience for my staff, a lot of paperwork for the Capitol Police, but a fairly simple story. Until the next night, when a couple of the TV people started claiming that my puppet squad had ‘committed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building.’ ”

Colbert called any comparison to Jan. 6 “shameful and grotesque.”

“An insurrection involves disrupting the lawful actions of Congress and howling for the blood of elected leaders, all to prevent the peaceful transfer of power,” he said. “This was first-degree puppetry. This was hijinks with intent to goof.”

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