The head of the U.S. Capitol Police on Tuesday denounced Fox News host Tucker Carlson's portrayal of the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol as "filled with offensive and misleading conclusions," and accused him of selectively airing footage that failed to provide context about the attack.
"Last night an opinion program aired commentary that was filled with offensive and misleading conclusions about the January 6th attack," Thomas Manger, chief of the Capitol Police, said in a letter to the department obtained by CBS News. "The opinion program never reached out to the department to provide accurate context."
The letter was first reported by Politico.
Manger criticized Carlson for falsely claiming that Capitol Police officers helped the mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters and acted as "tour guides," calling the accusation "outrageous and false."
"I don't have to remind you how outnumbered our officers were on January 6," he wrote. "Those officers did their best to use de-escalation tactics to try to talk rioters into getting each other to leave the building."
Manger also accused Carlson of "conveniently" cherry-picking moments of calm to show from over 41,000 hours of police and surveillance footage, which House Speaker Kevin McCarthy allowed the Fox News host to access. The selectively aired footage, he said, "fails to provide context about the chaos and violence that happened before or during these less tense moments."
While Manger was unsparing in his criticism of Carlson's characterization of Jan. 6, he said the "most disturbing" claim involved the circumstances of U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick's death after the attack.
"The department maintains, as anyone with common sense would, that had Officer Sicknick not fought valiantly for hours on the day he was violently assaulted, Officer Sicknick would not have died the next day," he said.
Carlson claimed during his show Monday that Jan. 6 was "mostly peaceful" and the majority of rioters who unlawfully entered the Capitol were "sightseers" who were "orderly and meek." The Fox host 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 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, who were attempting to protect the Capitol during the riot. 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 of supervised release.
Sicknick's family lambasted Carlson and Fox News in a statement Monday night, saying the primetime host aired footage that "supports his delusional views" that the events of Jan. 6 were 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.
Manger said that while some may select portions from the trove of footage that supports their narrative, law enforcement on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6 who protected members of Congress and "contributed to the effort to allow this country's legislative process to continue know firsthand what actually happened."
"You fought like hell on January 6 and risked your lives to protect the Constitution and everything this country stands for. You, along with our law enforcement partners, saved every Member of Congress and their staff," he wrote. "TV commentary will not record the truth for our history books. The justice system will. The truth and justice are on our side."
Carlson's primetime show on Fox attracts more than 3 million viewers, and he 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 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."
More than 1,000 people have been arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 assault, and the majority 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.