Fact Check: Were Rioters at the Capitol Antifa Members in Disguise as Gaetz says?

The mob attack on January 6 at the Capitol caused a firestorm on social media, as right-wing pundits and conspiracy theorists claimed that the rioters were not Trump supporters, but members of antifa in disguise.

The theory spread through Facebook, Twitter and into Congress.

The Claim

During his post-raid election-certification speech in which he objected to Arizona's electoral votes, Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.)advanced the theory that some people who invaded the Capitol were antifa, according to a Washington Times story that was later retracted.

"I don't know if the reports are true, but The Washington Times has just reported some pretty compelling evidence from a facial recognition company that some of the people who breached the Capitol today were not Trump supporters—they were masquerading as Trump supporters and, in fact, were members of the violent terrorist group antifa," he said.

My hope is that all violent agitators are arrested and their names are revealed publicly.

Call it a hunch, but my guess is there are still ANTIFA thugs in the mix.

— Candace Owens (@RealCandaceO) January 6, 2021

"My hope is that all violent agitators are arrested and their names are revealed publicly," conservative author and political commentator Candace Owens posted in a tweet. "Call it a hunch, but my guess is there are still ANTIFA thugs in the mix."

The Facts

There are two main lines of evidence of antifa involvement perpetuated on social media following the insurrection.

The first is that antifa groups have been planning to dress up as Trump supporters and infiltrate protests.

Remember, Antifa openly planned to dress as Trump supporters and cause chaos today

Propaganda is real

— Rogan O’Handley 🇺🇸 (@DC_Draino) January 6, 2021

The second is that software company XRVision used facial recognition technology to prove rioters were linked to an antifa website.

On January 6, controversial pro-Trump lawyer Lin Wood shared multiple tweets claiming that the people storming the Capitol were antifa members, not Trump supporters. Wood's Twitter account has since been temporarily suspended.

"More evidence that antifa came to Washington, DC today to create trouble," Wood tweeted. "@realDonaldTrump supporters are not violent. They do not willfully damage property. They are peaceful. NOT true with respect to BLM & Antifa."

He included a screenshot of a tweet from November 10 in which user @KatherineGarth2 talks about a supposed antifa plan.

"I spoke to my Antifa operatives in Portland and she said the ones going to DC are going to wear camouflage, cut-offs, and Trump paraphernalia to blend in, but turning their MAGA hats backward for identification, so feel free to pass along," she said.

The tweet was later deleted and the user said it was meant as a joke.

If you are here because you are following a fake conspiracy theory about Antifa... the text is from Nov. 10. It was sarcastic and in reference to a statement that no one should be behaving like this in America. I am a moderate Dem mom. Not Antifa. Trump has done all of this.

— My humbleopinion💛 (@KatherineGarth2) January 6, 2021

She also responded to doubtful comments from right-wing accounts asserting that her tweet was a true account of recent protests.

"How would I have known about today on Nov. 10? It wasn't even in reference to today," she said. "Trump talked about crazy soup throwing Antifa. They don't exist, so as Dems we thought it was kind of funny. We have real problems to solve. You guys are way off on this."

Another image that resurfaced January 6 was of a flyer that calls for "Antifa comrades" to dress as Trump supporters so that the media, police and "patriots" "won't know who their enemies are."

The image has been shared across right-wing Facebook groups for months.Snopes found no evidence that the meme was connected to any antifa groups.

Katy Krasnow posted the meme in a Facebook page called Hickman County Antifa. She confirmed to Snopes that she found it when she searched for "antifa memes" on DuckDuckGo, a search engine, and it was meant to be a joke.

"Hickman County Antifa was a satire page, either the creator or Facebook took it down, that post was just a bad joke," Krasnow said. "I deleted soon after it got shared because it made a lot of people freak out more than I expected, nobody in the group was really actually connected, we were just sharing dumb antifa memes."

The meme has spread on the internet since 2017, but Snopes, "found no evidence of violent, antifa-led insurrections occurring in the U.S. on Nov. 4 over the past few years."

Many right-wing pundits, conspiracy theorists and politicians have spread the claim that some participants in the riot were part of antifa, based on facial recognition technology.

Jake Angeli was featured in many photographs inside the Capitol wearing a fur hat with horns and his face painted red, white and blue.

Newsweek debunked the claim that Angeli was part of antifa. He is a known QAnon supporter referred to as Q Shaman or QAnon Shaman.

The Washington Times ran a story January 6 claiming that a retired military officer said a software firm XRVision used facial recognition to match two men inside the Senate to Philly Antifa members. The article did not include an image, but this image has been circulated around the internet.

The image is from apage on the Philly Antifa website that identifies the man on the left as Jason Tankersley and the man on the right as Matthew Heimbach. The caption reads: Tankersley (l) with Traditionalist Worker's Party leader (now of the National Socialist Movement) Matthew Heimbach and Keystone State Skinheads co-founder Steve Smith.

The page flags Tankersley as a neo-Nazi and details his involvement in groups such as Maryland Skinheads. Heimbach is a known white nationalist who has connections to organizations such as the Council of Conservative Citizens, the League of the South, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the American Freedom Party.

The article also stated that one of the men "has a tattoo that indicates he is a Stalinist sympathizer." Others have speculated that the tattoo resembles a hammer and sickle, a symbol of communism.

However, other Twitter users pointed out that it more closely resembles the Outsiders Mark from the video game Dishonored.

The Outsider Mark from videogame Dishonored. pic.twitter.com/C4Yuk0Oges

— Zeke Yeager (@ZekkeYeager) January 6, 2021

The Washington Times story was disputed by XRVision and removed from the website.

In a statement to Newsweek, XRVision said it did not generate composites or detection imagery for the Washington Times nor for a retired military officer and did not authorize them to make such representations.

"Shortly after the rioting started, XRVision performed an analysis on the footage and identified several individuals. This information was shared with LEA. We concluded that two of individuals [Jason Tankersley and Matthew Heimbach] were affiliated with the Maryland Skinheads and the National Socialist Movements. These two are known Nazi organizations, they are not Antifa. The third individual identified [Jake Angeli] was an actor with some QAnon promotion history. Again, no Antifa identification was made for him either."

XRVision said the image analysis was distributed to a handful of individuals for private consumption and not for publication.

Gaetz later addressed the retracted article in a tweet, condemning violence from both left- and right-wing groups.

"I cited a Wash Times publication w/ requisite caveat. If it isn't true, the point still stands that our nation has endured both left and right wing violence & I condemn it all. Specifically, I condemned the attacks on the Capitol and on Speaker Pelosi's home."

Newsweek reported that a San Francisco home belonging to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was vandalized on New Year's Day with graffiti apparently referencing the effort to give $2,000 stimulus checks to Americans. Graffiti on the garage door read "$2K", "Cancel rent" and "We want everything," according to ABC 6.

I cited a Wash Times publication w/ requisite caveat.

If it isn’t true, the point still stands that our nation has endured both left and right wing violence & I condemn it all.

Specifically, I condemned the attacks on the Capitol and on Speaker Pelosi’s home. https://t.co/X8wGTQkvMY

— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) January 7, 2021

Other evidence claiming to prove antifa's involvement at the Capitol have circulated around social media.

Representative Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) warned followers on Twitter not to "rush to judgment on assault of Capitol," then continued with a thread stating that a congressman was warned by Capitol police on January 5 that "that intelligence suggested fascist ANTIFA was going to try to infiltrate the Trump rally by dressing like Trump supporters."

1. A Congressman warned me on MONDAY of a growing ANTIFA threat & advised that I sleep in my office rather than leaving Capitol complex & sleeping in my condo. I heeded that advice & have slept on office floor for 4 straight nights.

— Mo Brooks (@RepMoBrooks) January 7, 2021

Newsweek reached out to Brooks and the Capitol police for comment.

Other videos were shared, allegedly showing antifa members trying to break a window into the Capitol Building while a crowd of Trump supporters booed and yelled "no antifa."

New video proves Antifa were responsible for Capitol breach. pic.twitter.com/1mBgnyx08p

— Tony (@Mrtdogg) January 7, 2021

The Ruling

Mostly False.

The screenshot Lin Wood shared and the antifa flyer shared across social media for months were both debunked. Both were proven to be jokes and have no connection to antifa supporters.

The men photographed in the building have been identified as neo-Nazis and a QAnon supporter, not members of antifa.

The claims from Representative Brooks and the other videos showing crowds yelling at alleged antifa operatives have not yet been verified or debunked.

d.c. protests results in deaths
Four individuals have been reported dead in the wake of the January 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Robert Nicklesberg/Getty

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