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CLARENCE PAGE: Insurrection? Let Tucker explain what you think you saw

“Who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes.”

That old, popular quote has been attributed in one version or another to a variety of funny men, according to the Quote Investigator website.

I’ll settle for the video clip on YouTube in which Chico Marx utters the line in the classic 1933 Marx Brothers comedy, “Duck Soup.” He’s disguised as Groucho in the scene.

Anyway, that old movie line came to mind as I watched a more recent moment of confusion: Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s release Monday of never-before-seen footage from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by Donald Trump supporters, which Carlson describes at one point as “mostly peaceful chaos.”

News accounts were more likely to describe it as a “deadly insurrection.” But Carlson insists, “Everything about that phrase is a lie.”

“Very little about Jan. 6 was organized or violent,” he says, which immediately reminded me of all the times I have heard from Carlson and his fellow TV conservatives lambaste news media for noting that most of the Black Lives Matter protesters also were peaceful. Sometimes, it appears, fairness and balance depend on whose windows are getting broken.

I find it darkly amusing that the right wing’s ferocious demands for strict “law and order,” especially regarding hoodlums who attack police, remarkably soften when confronted with cases of such lawbreaking by fellow right-wingers.

“The crowd was enormous,” Carlson said. “A small percentage of them were hooligans. They committed vandalism. You have seen the footage of them again and again. But the overwhelming majority of them were peaceful. They were orderly and meek. These were not insurrectionists. They were sightseers.”

Right. Tell that to the police officers who were attacked — and their families.

“These were not rioters,” Carlson said. “They were people who wandered over from a political rally.”

Approximately 140 police officers were assaulted Jan. 6 at the Capitol, including about 80 from the U.S. Capitol Police and about 60 from the Metropolitan Police Department, according to the Justice Department.

The siege left five dead, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who suffered strokes and died of natural causes a day after being attacked at the Capitol, according to the city’s chief medical examiner. Two other officers who were on duty that day later died by suicide.

More than a thousand defendants have been arrested in nearly all 50 states and the District of Columbia in connection with the riot. About 326 defendants have been charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers or employees, the Justice Department reports.

That includes about 106 individuals who have been charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer.

Remember how right-wingers mocked those of us in the media who truthfully describe the Black Lives Matter protests as being “mostly peaceful?”

Forgive me if I now return the mockery when Carlson, among others on the right, try to turn the Capitol invaders into a cheerful group of happy-go-lucky tourists.

Democrats, among others on Capitol Hill, are outraged over Carlson’s exclusive access. They fear Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy’s favor to Carlson could compromise critical security secrets at the Capitol, although that horse seems to have left the barn.

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger last week ripped into “offensive and misleading conclusions” in Carlson’s commentary during the footage broadcast. The Fox News host “cherry-picked” from “calmer moments of our 41,000 hours video,” Manger said, leaving out much of the mob’s assaults on police with fists and bear spray.

Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, said on a conservative news radio show that he “never felt threatened” by the pro-Trump mob. But under questioning, he said would have been concerned if the mob had been made up of Black Lives Matter or antifa protesters.

Nothing racist about that, he insisted later. Apparently he just feels threatened by the way some people look. I could tell him different, but who’s he gonna believe? Me or his own mind’s eyes?

Contact Clarence Page at cpage@chicagotribune.com.

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