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Family of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, top Democrats lambaste Fox News and Tucker Carlson over Jan. 6 portrayal

Critics slam Fox News for Jan. 6 depiction
Critics slam Fox News for depiction of January 6 attack 03:38

Washington — The family of U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died following the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol, rebuked Fox News and host Tucker Carlson after he aired selected unseen footage of the attack to falsely claim the media and congressional investigators misled the public about the events, including the circumstances of Sicknick's death.

In a statement provided to CBS News, Sicknick's family said they are "outraged at the ongoing attack" by Fox News and accused Carlson of cherry-picking footage from the Jan. 6 riot that "supports his delusional views that" it was peaceful.

"Every time the pain of that day seems to have ebbed a bit, organizations like Fox rip our wounds wide open again and we are frankly sick of it," the Sicknick family said.

They accused Fox News of doing the bidding of former President Donald Trump and "his sycophant followers," while ignoring the damage done to families of U.S. Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police officers who were harmed on Jan. 6 by the violent mob of Trump's supporters who breached the building in an attempt to thwart the transfer of presidential power.

"FOX has shown time and time again that they are little more than the propaganda arm of the Republican Party and like Pravda, will do whatever they are told to keep the hatred and the lies flowing while suppressing anything resembling the truth," the family said. "Fox does this not for any sense of morality as they have none, but for the quest for every penny of advertising money they can get from those who buy airtime from them."

In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo insurrections loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo insurrections loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Jose Luis Magana / AP

Carlson, who hosts a primetime show on Fox with more than 3 million viewers, was given exclusive access to a trove of 41,000 hours of Capitol and police surveillance footage from Jan. 6 as part of an agreement with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. CBS News is part of a group of media organizations demanding access to the tranche of videos from the attack. 

McCarthy has defended his decision to give Carlson and Fox the videos, telling reporters last week that he gave the network exclusive access and then will "give it out to the entire country."

Selected portions of the footage aired during Carlson's show Monday night, with more expected this week. On Tuesday, he is expected to feature a former Capitol Police lieutenant, Tarik Khalid "TK" Johnson, who was suspended in the wake of the attack after video captured him leading protesters through the crowd while donning a Make America Great Again hat. Johnson confirmed his appearance to CBS News.

During his broadcast Monday, Carlson called the events of Jan. 6 "mostly peaceful chaos" and the majority of rioters who unlawfully entered the Capitol "sightseers" who were "orderly and meek." A small percentage of those who descended on the Capitol, Carlson claimed, were "hooligans" who committed vandalism.

The Fox host also showed surveillance footage of an officer, purported to be Sicknick, walking through the Capitol looking "healthy and vigorous." Sicknick's death, he claimed, "was not the result of violence he suffered" at the Capitol.

The D.C. medical examiner's office said Sicknick died of natural causes after suffering from two strokes at the base of his brainstem caused by a clot in an artery and noted that "all that transpired played a role in his condition," a reference to Sicknick responding to the mob at the Capitol.

Two men were charged in 2021 with assaulting Sicknick and accused of using chemical spray on the line of officers, Sicknick among them, attempting to protect the Capitol. One of the men, Julian Khater, admitted to spraying Sicknick and was sentenced to 80 months in prison in January. The second man, George Tanios, pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was ordered to 12 months supervised release.

Khater of New Jersey, who was accused of deploying chemical spray at Sicknick, pleaded guilty to two federal charges. The Sicknick family spoke at Khater's sentencing hearing.     

Sickcnick's family said Carlson downplayed the situation at the Capitol and the efforts of U.S. Capitol and Metropolitan police who were outnumbered and "literally fighting for their very lives."

"One officer, Brian Sicknick, lost that fight the following day and several more officers lost that fight in the following weeks," they said. "On video, Officer Sicknick looks like he managed to shake off the chemical irritants and resume his duties. That he did, but his sense of duty and incredible work ethic were the driving force which sent him back in spite of his injuries and no doubt contributed to his succumbing to his injuries the following day."

The Justice Department has arrested more than 1,000 people in connection with the Jan. 6 assault, more than half of whom have pleaded guilty to federal charges. Roughly 326 people have been charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding law enforcement officers, including 106 defendants facing charges of using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer, according to the Justice Department.

About 140 officers were assaulted on Jan. 6, and many suffered head wounds, cracked ribs and smashed spinal disks as a result of the violence.

In addition to carrying firearms, court documents show a number of people charged for their conduct on Jan. 6 wielded weapons like Tasers, tomahawk axes, crowbars, flagpoles, baseball bats, chemical sprays and fire extinguishers. During a June hearing of the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack, a top Secret Service official listed weapons found on attendees outside Trump's Jan. 6 rally at the Ellipse: knives, pistols, rifles and spears on the end of flag poles, according to Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. 

A number of top Democrats have joined the Sicknick family in criticizing Carlson for his portrayal of the events of Jan. 6.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called Carlson's broadcast one of the "most shameful hours we have ever seen on cable television," and said McCarthy's decision to share footage from Jan. 6 with Carlson is a "disaster."

"I condemn Mr Carlosn for siding with the enemies of democracy," he said in remarks on the Senate floor. "I strongly condemn Speaker Mcarthy's actions and fiercely oppose his decision to share this footage with Carlson."

Rep. Bennie Thompson, the former chairman of the Jan. 6 select committee, also denounced McCarthy for providing Carlson with access to the videos.

"It is a dereliction of duty for Kevin McCarthy to give Tucker Carlson carte blanche access to sensitive U.S. Capitol security surveillance footage from one of the darkest days in the history of our democracy," he said in a statement. "Despite repeated warnings as to the sensitive nature of this footage, the speaker decided it was more important to give in to a Fox host who spews lies and propaganda than to protect the Capitol and the police, members, and staff that serve in it."

Scott MacFarlane contributed to this report.

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