Journalists Exposed Ugly Face of Jan. 6 Insurrection

President Joe Biden gives speech marking first anniversary of the January 6 insurrection
President Joe Biden gives a speech marking first anniversary of the January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection. (Image credit: C-SPAN)

In his speech marking the anniversary of the Capitol insurrection, President Joe Biden talked Thursday about a statue of Clio, the Greek muse of history, looking down over the door to the rotunda and recording the ransacking of the Capitol on January 6, 2021. With apologies to Clio, it was in fact the cameras of broadcast and cable and C-SPAN and surveillance cameras and the video streams from cellphones that captured the attack on the Capitol and the rule of law.

Just as the cable and broadcast networks and streaming services covered speeches marking the anniversary by the president and Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday.

The president, speaking from the Capitol's Statuary Hall, made the point about the nation being witness to that troubling history when he said “[Y]ou and I and the whole world saw with our own eyes” the truth of what happened that day, which he said was rioters rampaging and trying to rip the country apart.

Also: The Capitol Siege: Images That Linger

Taking the gloves off, Biden said former President Donald Trump had rallied the mob to attack, then sat in a private dining room off the Oval Office and watched it on television. Former Trump press secretary Stephanie Grisham said on CNN Thursday the then-president had watched, and rewatched, the footage — even as he was being asked to quell the violence of a crowd he had earlier urged to fight to have the election overturned. As Trump watched the TV, Biden said, he “did nothing for hours and hours” as police were assaulted and the Capitol besieged by an armed insurrection.

Earlier, Harris had said, “We all saw what our nation would look like if the forces who seek to dismantle our democracy are successful.”

It was journalists who chronicled the truth of that day and in doing so helped face down the violent mob by recording its ugly face for the world to see, and at some personal risk — rioters in the crowd trashed equipment and some talked about killing the journalists covering the insurrection.

Biden included reporters in talking about all who were “living with the trauma of that day.”

From the president’s speech about a stolen election that rallied a crowd to march to the Capitol, successfully breaching the building and disrupting the counting of electoral votes, reporters — who some in the crowd openly threatened to hunt down and kill one by one — kept reporting.

The president talked about a choice between living in the “light of truth” or the “shadow of lies.” Journalists have a critical role in shining that light, and a responsibility not to join, for ratings or political purposes, those throwing shade on that truth.

In a pro forma session that lasted only a few minutes but was carried by broadcast and cable networks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called for a moment of silence in honor of the police officers who lost their lives following the attack.

According to CNN, the only Republican in the chamber for that moment of silence was Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), a member of the special committee investigating the insurrection, accompanied by her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney. C-SPAN's cameras, though controlled by the Congress, clearly showed the Republican side virtually empty, pretty much ensuring there would be silence from that side of the chamber during the moment of remembrance. ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.