What a week. One of the darkest moments in American history took place Wednesday when the president of the United States fired up his supporters to the point that they broke into the Capitol building while Congress was in session. Five people ended up dead, and the nation continues to be on edge as Donald Trump has two weeks left as president — although he did put out a video statement Thursday evening condemning the violence, asking for “healing” and acknowledging Joe Biden will be the next president.
Despite his video, there remains worry about his final days in office and there are calls for his removal. His supporters — including some Republican elected officials and conservative media — remain steadfast that he did not lose what has proven to be a fair election.
It was simply an extraordinary week and even two days after the disturbing events, we continue to sort through what happened and what’s next.
Media coverage is helping us do all that. So here’s a look back at more coverage from a week we will never forget.
‘Murder the media’
One of the disturbing images from Wednesday’s ugliness in Washington was this message scratched into the door of the Capitol building:
“Murder the media.”
Outside the Capitol, a TV news crew was chased away from its equipment, which was then destroyed by the mob. Someone took a camera cable, knotted it into a noose and flung it over a tree branch.
The New York Times’ Tiffany Hsu and Katie Robertson chronicled what some of the media endured on Wednesday. It was disturbing, although certainly not surprising.
Hsu and Robertson wrote, “President Trump and his allies have fanned the flames of anti-media sentiment, regularly labeling news outlets as ‘the enemy of the people.’ On Wednesday, during an appearance on Fox News, the former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin described the events of the day as ‘mayhem,’ adding that ‘a lot of it is the media’s fault.’”
Washington wasn’t the only place where the media was attacked, and it wasn’t only the pro-Trump crowd that targeted the media. Two Washington Post journalists were detained by police for filming protests after curfew on Wednesday, but they were quickly released.
And in Salt Lake City, Rick Egan, a photographer for The Salt Lake Tribune, was pepper-sprayed by protestors outside the Utah State Capitol. Tribune executive editor Lauren Gustus told The New York Times, “That is not freedom of speech. It is a physical and verbal attack on a journalist who was asked by his editor to cover the events at the Capitol, protests that mirrored others across the country and emanated from the chaos in Washington, D.C.”
In a Twitter thread, NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro said she talked to media friends who covered Wednesday’s events.
Garcia-Navarro tweeted, “Journalists there were scared that they would be stabbed. They had their equipment vandalized. They were insulted and threatened. That’s not how a democratic society treats its press. It is urgent that journalists are able to work safely. The rhetoric against the media must stop.”
A frightening day for journalists, made so by a president and many of his supporters who see the media as the enemy.
Tracking down the story
This is the kind of story that shows just how good and dogged The New York Times is. That guy who broke into the Capitol, entered Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, put his feet up on her desk and then bragged it about?
Yeah, the Times tracked him down. Reporter Matthew Rosenberg talked to the man, whose name is Richard Barnett, a 60-year-old from Gravette, Arkansas. Barnett told Rosenberg he wrote Pelosi a “nasty note” using her stationary. Rosenberg claims he was knocking on her door and got pushed inside. He told Rosenberg, “I’ll probably be telling them this is what happened all the way to the D.C. jail.”
Great hustle by Rosenberg.
Fox News (well some) bailing on the president
Oh, don’t you worry, Trump still has his core of supporters inside the walls of Fox News. Many of the pundits who have supported, enabled and excused his behavior for the past four years aren’t about to jump off the ship even as it is sinking.
But there are some inside the Fox News stratosphere who think Trump might be done as a serious political candidate. Then again, it only took four years and people storming into the Capitol for them to come to that conclusion.
Fox News’ Bret Baier said, “I think (Wednesday) changed the entire political dynamic going forward, and it’s hard to see how the Trump political force is what it is the day before (Wednesday).”
“Fox & Friends” co-anchor Brian Kilmeade called Trump’s behavior “terrible” and said it cost the GOP two Senate seats in Georgia, and the majority in the Senate.
On Fox News’ “Outnumbered,” Lisa “Kennedy” Montgomery said, “I have to say, after the losses in Georgia, after his speech (Wednesday) that we sat through which I thought was full of self-pity, and rambling, and incoherence, he can no longer be the leader of this movement.”
Even controversial Fox News contributor Tomi Lahren, a diehard Trump supporter who has made a career spewing Trump-like rhetoric, said, “I don’t think that’s the best idea” when asked if Trump should run again in 2024. Then again, she added, “I do think that we are going to need a leader that is Trump-like.”
Carlson’s double standard
Washington Post media writer Erik Wemple pointed out the hypocrisy of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson in a well-reasoned column. Wemple noted that Carlson showed a human touch while talking about the woman who was shot and killed inside the Capitol on Wednesday. But, Wemple wrote, “Wouldn’t it be nice if Carlson lamented all deaths at the hands of law enforcement as he did on Wednesday night? ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight,’ though, cannot boast such evenhandedness.”
Wemple pointed specifically to the death of George Floyd, as well as Black Lives Matter protests, to show the difference in Carlson’s reactions. Wemple details the incidents in a column that has the headline: “Tucker Carlson’s racist, riotous double standard.”
A final thought on Fox News
Much of Fox News has spent the past four years supporting Trump even when Trump was at his worst. And even now, you’ll see plenty of examples of on-air personalities and invited guests pushing unproven conspiracy theories that try to shift the blame away from Trump supporters to other groups for the violence and unruly behavior we saw Wednesday.
For the past four years, on much of its programming, Fox News has been tantamount to state TV. As I wrote above, much of the network has enabled, excused and supported the president’s behavior. So it needs to share the blame — and its blame is significant — for Wednesday’s ugliness.
Calling out the MAGA media
Strong comments Thursday from CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy:
“It’s possible Trump might face some consequences for inciting the act of domestic terrorism we saw Wednesday. But what about the right-wing media machine that primed the rioters with lies and conspiracy theories? It seems hard to imagine folks like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, Glenn Beck and Mark Levin will face any real consequences. And it seems harder to imagine the enablers like the Murdochs and various companies that provide these propagandists with sizable platforms will see any consequences. In fact, there are signs that companies such as Fox are willing to behave just as irresponsibly as they were before the riot.”
Speaking of Limbaugh, he actually said this on his radio show Thursday:
“There’s a lot of people calling for the end of violence. … I am glad Sam Adams, Thomas Paine, the actual Tea Party guys, the men at Lexington and Concord didn’t feel that way.”
Darcy later tweeted, “Too many people — particularly political journalists — simply do not seem to understand that outside Trump, the Republican Party is not controlled by lawmakers as much as it is controlled by media personalities such as Hannity, Limbaugh, Levin, Beck, Carlson, Ingraham, etc.”
Facebook bans Trump ‘indefinitely’
Facebook finally has seen enough of Trump. The social media giant has blocked Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts “indefinitely and at least for the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete,” according to a statement Thursday morning from Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In the past, Zuckerberg has taken the stance that Facebook should not censor politicians, believing their words fall under freedom of speech.
But apparently when Trump used Facebook (and Twitter) to put out statements that didn’t strongly condemn the storming of the Capitol, Zuckerberg had a change of heart — albeit, in my opinion, several years too late.
In his announcement banning Trump, Zuckerberg said, “His decision to use his platform to condone rather than condemn his supporters at the Capitol building has rightly disturbed people in the US and around the world.”
For more, check out this story I wrote for Poynter.org.
I want to highlight some exceptional journalism right here. The Washington Post — with text, photos, video and graphics — has a stunningly good timeline of how pro-Tump insurrectionists broke into the Capitol.
It really is excellent work that you should check out.
Inside the Capitol
What was it like to be a photographer inside the Capitol on Wednesday? Check out this piece in National Geographic from Susan Goldberg, who talked to National Geographic photographer Louie Palu.
Palu told Goldberg that he spent five years covering the war in Afghanistan, as well as covering drug wars in Mexico that included more than 100 assassinations.
But, Goldberg wrote, “He has never seen anything like what he saw Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol — and neither have you.”
Palu chronicled on his GoPro what it was like inside the Capitol among the mob.
“It was the ugliest moment I have ever seen in America,” Palu told Goldberg.
When it was all over and he reflected back on his day, he said, “I realize (that) I personally witnessed one of the saddest days I had ever felt in America.”
TikTok tells the story
TikTok turned out to be a valuable journalism tool on Wednesday.
Check out this unsettling video that shows police being overrun by rioters.
Meanwhile, this TikTok video of a woman who seems upset that she got maced for trying to storm into the Capitol had nearly 20 million views as of Thursday.
BuzzFeed News’ Lauren Strapagiel has a pertinent story with “This Is How TikTok Responded To The Chaos In Washington.”
The facts of the matters
Poynter’s PolitiFact has delved into some of the questions that have come up after Wednesday’s trouble in Washington.
Samantha Putterman answers “Did Capitol Police let mob of Trump supporters in? And Bill McCarthy has “Face-painted man in horned fur cap at Capitol riot supports Trump and QAnon, not antifa.”
And one other story I want to point out from Poynter: my colleague Al Tompkins with “What you need to know about the 25th Amendment.”
Check out these stories
The Atlantic’s editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg embedded himself into the pro-Trump crowd on Wednesday in his piece: “Mass Delusion in America.”
A New York Times op-ed by Seyward Darby with “The Far Right Told Us What It Had Planned. We Didn’t Listen.”
In The New Republic: “A War Photographer Embeds With the Capitol Hill Mob.”
Next week’s cover story in the New Yorker: Edel Rodriguez’s “After the Insurrection.”
CNN’s most-watched day ever
CNN announced that Wednesday’s coverage of the horrific events in Washington resulted in CNN’s most-watched day ever with 5.221 million total viewers tuning in.
And, CNN reports, it outperformed all networks in primetime coverage. It drew 8.2 million viewers in primetime (8 to 11 p.m.), followed by MSNBC (7.38 million), NBC (5.77 million), ABC (4.88 million), Fox News (4.57 million) and CBS (2.57 million).
USA Today’s request
This is a bit unusual. USA Today has published 29 photos of rioters inside the Capitol building on Thursday and is asking readers to help identify the people in the photos.
USA Today writes, “USA Today is working to identify those who stormed into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday as lawmakers met to count electoral votes in the presidential race. Many photos and videos online show the rioters who entered the building. If you can identify someone who was there, share it with us, including the name of the person you see, a link to the photo or video where you see them and any help you can give us to verify who the person is.”
They then include a link to a form to identify those in a photo. USA Today adds, “We won’t publish anything about you unless you give us permission. You’ll be helping us to report this important story.”
What the story doesn’t say is what the news outlet is planning to do with the names. A USA Today spokesperson told me the news outlet is not working with authorities, but wants to identify and hold accountable those who broke into the Capitol.
Other thoughts and notes about media coverage of what happened this week in Washington
- I should’ve mentioned PBS’s coverage more prominently in my day-after review on Thursday. Led by Judy Woodruff, the network’s coverage and analysis was especially smart.
- ESPN, often criticized for shying away from mixing politics with sports, embraced conversation about Wednesday’s events. Shows such as “Get Up,” “First Take,” “Around the Horn,” “Pardon the Interruption” and “SportsCenter” all addressed it. Most of it tied in the sports angle, although “First Take” and “Pardon the Interruption” didn’t make it about sports at all. In addition, on an “Outside the Lines” segment during “SportsCenter,” Jeremy Schaap interviewed NBA Hall of Famer and former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley. (You can see clips here and here.) It was good to see ESPN not ignoring a topic that had to be talked about.
- Scariest words from Thursday: Talking about Trump, CNN’s Van Jones said he doesn’t consider himself an alarmist, but said, “These are the most dangerous 13 days this country has faced since the Cuban missile crisis.”
- White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany gave a press conference Thursday. She condemned the violence (without acknowledging that it was stoked by her boss) and said the White House is working on a peaceful transition. She took no questions. As she walked out of the room as reporters shouted questions, I wondered if this was the last McEnany press conference from the White House.
- Simon & Schuster has decided to not publish Sen. Josh Hawley’s book “The Tyranny of Big Tech.” Hawley is the Missouri Republican senator who led the GOP lawmakers’ objections to certifying Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. In a statement, Simon & Schuster said it did not come to the decision lightly and tries to amplify a variety of voices and viewpoints. “At the same time,” the statement said, “we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Sen. Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom.” Hawley pushed back with a statement of his own, saying, “This could not be more Orwellian.”
- USA Today’s weekend print edition includes a special section dedicated to Wednesday’s insurrection. It’s 12 pages of coverage and includes investigative reports and analysis.
One last thing: a farewell
Before closing out this newsletter, I want to acknowledge the incredible career of legendary New York Times and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Neil Sheehan, who passed away Thursday due to complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was 84. Sheehan is best known for being the first reporter to obtain the Pentagon Papers. The New York Times’ Janny Scott has a wonderful obituary. And Scott also writes, “Now It Can Be Told: How Neil Sheehan Got the Pentagon Papers.”
After reading that second story, you might be reminded of Steven Spielberg’s 2017 film “The Post.” That starred Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep and looked at The Washington Post’s efforts to obtain and publish the Pentagon Papers. Commenting on Scott’s story about Sheehan, New York Times editor Connor Ennis tweeted, “Spielberg really should have waited to make this movie.”
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at email@example.com.
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