Capitol Rioters Will Blame Trump, Fox News for Their Actions on Jan. 6: Report

Several of the rioters who took part in the insurrection against the U.S. Capitol on January 6 plan to blame the conspiracy theories and misinformation promoted by former President Donald Trump and other conservative sources—such as Fox News—as part of their defense in court.

Prior to the attack on the Capitol, the former president repeatedly claimed that the 2020 election was "stolen" or "rigged" by Democrats. Some of these baseless lies were readily promoted by hosts on Fox News and other conservatie media outlets. As a result, attorneys representing at least three of the hundreds of defendants arrested for their involvement in the insurrection told The Associated Press that their clients will explain that they were misled by the former president and others during their trials.

"You can catch this disease," Joseph Hurley, an attorney representing Capitol riot defendant Anthony Antonio, told the AP for an article published on Saturday. Antonio reportedly began watching Fox News all day with his roommate during the pandemic, which his attorney contends is connected to his client believing Trump's conspiracy theories.

"This is why he was here [at the Capitol]. The reason he was there is because he was a dumbass and believed what he heard on Fox News," Hurley explained.

U.S. Capitol riot
Supporters of then President Donald Trump riot inside the U.S. Capitol on January 6 in Washington, D.C. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Albert Watkins, an attorney representing Jacob Chansley, the so-called "QAnon shaman" from the riot, compared the situation to what happened in Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978, when cult leader Jim Jones convinced hundreds of followers to drink poisoned fruit punch, resulting in their deaths.

"The people who fell in love with Jim Jones and went down to Guyana, they had husbands and wives and lives. And then they drank the Kool-Aid," Watkins pointed out.

After months of spreading misinformation about the election results, Trump told his supporters at a Washington, D.C. rally near the White House on January 6 to "march" to the Capitol and to "fight like hell" to save the country from Biden and Democrats. The former president's supporters incorrectly believed Trump's lies that the 2020 election was fraudulent.

A week after the January 6 assault, 10 House Republicans joined with Democrats to impeach the former president for allegedly inciting the mob. Then in February, seven Republican senators voted "guilty" along with all 50 members of the Senate's Democratic caucus. Although this marked the most bipartisan impeachment conviction vote against a U.S. president, it fell short of the high constitutional threshold of a two-thirds majority required for a successful conviction.

Since then, Trump and many of his supporters continue to baselessly claim that the 2020 election was fraudulent. Dozens of election challenge lawsuits filed by the former president and his allies in state and federal courts have failed. Even judges appointed by Trump and other Republicans dismissed or rejected the often bizarre allegations. Meanwhile, numerous recounts and audits in key battleground states—including in places where the election was overseen by pro-Trump Republicans—have reaffirmed Biden's victory.

Former U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who was widely viewed as one of Trump's most loyal Cabinet officials, said in December that there was "no evidence" of fraud that would impact Biden's win. Additionally, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at the Department of Homeland Security, which was led by a Trump appointee, said after the election that it was the "most secure in American history." The agency asserted that there was "no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised."

Newsweek reached out to Trump's office for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.