Democracia y PolíticaÉtica y MoralViolencia

Tucker Carlson’s ouster is another sign that MAGA is shrinking

Call it the latest chapter in the tale of the Incredible Shrinking MAGA.


Just after Jan. 6, 2021, when the scale of the right wing’s whitewash of the insurrection became visible, it was reasonable to fear it might have some success. Maybe voters would see the attackers as victims of prosecutorial overreach. Perhaps the public would grow confused about the Jan. 6 ringleaders’ insurrectionist intent and lose sight of the need for accountability.

Yet, on balance, our national reckoning over Jan. 6 has proved to be a surprisingly salutary affair.

To see how, look no further than a saga involving Tucker Carlson and Ray Epps.

Carlson, who just parted ways with Fox News less than a week after the network agreed to pay $787 million to settle a lawsuit over false claims about the 2020 election, has relentlessly portrayed Epps as an FBI stooge who provoked the Jan. 6 rioters. In this alt-history of Jan. 6, the rioters are the persecuted victims of corrupt law enforcement institutions that were hijacked by elites to suppress a virtuous, if regrettably violent, uprising against an illegitimate order.

The Epps conspiracy theory is based largely on video of him on Jan. 6 urging Donald Trump’s supporters to converge on the Capitol. Epps is seen whispering in the ear of one of them, after which the mob rushed police officers, supposedly showing he inspired that attack. After the FBI declined to prosecute Epps for his role on Jan. 6, the false-flag theory took hold.

But a new “60 Minutes” episode debunks this with additional video of Epps just after he whispered to the man. It shows Epps repeatedly urging the rioters to calm down and refrain from violence. “They’re not the enemy,” Epps told the rioters, speaking about the police.

Epps is hardly a hero. He continues to suggest the 2020 outcome is dubious, and on Jan. 6 he sought to inflame others with the same idea (while urging them to remain peaceful). But his story stands as a damning indictment of Carlson, right-wing media and Republicans in Congress who sought to push the false-flag theory.

“He’s obsessed with me,” Epps said of Carlson in an extensive interview with “60 Minutes.” The toll of this obsession was severe: It produced death threats from the right that compelled Epps to sell his ranch in Arizona and hide out. The segment features Epps in his trailer in an undisclosed location in the Rocky Mountains, rendering him a sympathetic figure.

In the end, the Epps saga exposes the insurrectionist wing of the MAGA movement for what it is: violent, destructive and lawless, with tentacles reaching into the highest ranks of the GOP, and Carlson as its willing accomplice. At the same time, this saga is part of a largely positive story about our institutions and their performance in the face of extraordinary strains exerted by the largest outbreak of political violence in recent U.S. history.

In our era of “LOL nothing matters” tweeting, it’s hard to grasp the 2020 election and our national response to Jan. 6 as a civic success story. But the election — in the face of a pandemic, a president determined to foment violence to prevent its resolution and a national movement standing at his beck and call — came off relatively smoothly.

What’s more, the response to Jan. 6 has, on balance, proved encouraging. The Jan. 6 committee’s rendering of the event stands as one of the classic congressional investigations in U.S. history. Majorities see Trump as criminally culpable. The most prominent election-denying GOP candidates lost in 2022, suggesting voters grasp all of this as cause for continued vigilance.

Prosecutions of rioters and their organizers are proceeding apace. Reform of the Electoral Count Act — undertaken to prevent a future Jan. 6 — passed by a wide bipartisan margin.

Then there’s Carlson’s departure from Fox News. The Post’s initial reporting indicates that Carlson’s comments about Fox News management, as revealed during the lawsuit against the network, played a larger role than the evidence that personalities such as Carlson knowingly deceived their viewers about Jan. 6 and the 2020 election out of fear that they would bolt to competitors if they heard the truth.

Still, it does appear that Carlson’s texts about this very same deception campaign helped to bring him down. It’s hard not to see this as more evidence that MAGA’s lies continue to implode, and their most determined purveyors are sinking along with them.

Carlson’s removal from Fox News, coming right at the moment that one of the leading victims of his lies struck back at him, is only the latest in a string of reasons for cautious optimism. Two and a half years ago, if you had predicted the sort of outcomes we’ve seen since, it would have seemed hopelessly, almost absurdly, naive.


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