Biden tells reporters on Jan. 6: ‘To heal, you have to recognize the extent of the wound’



Immediately following his January 6 anniversary speech in Statuary Hall, President Biden told a small group of reporters that “we just have to face the facts of what happened” and “draw a clear picture for the American people.”

When one of the reporters asked if his remarks about Donald Trump could divide more than heal, Biden was ready with an answer: “The way you have to heal, you have to recognize the extent of the wound. This is serious stuff.”

Many listeners raved about the president’s address. Some Trump loyalists sneered at it. Here’s how the speech was received across the media:

— The Washington Post’s EJ Dionne: It was Biden’s “best speech of his presidency,” one that “changed the direction of his presidency by setting his face against a denialism that has distorted our nation’s debate since the day he was inaugurated. He insisted that Republicans could not be treated as a normal opposition as long as most of them — in their leadership and in their ranks — refuse to break unreservedly with an odious, democracy-wrecking liar.”
— The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser: “In the immediate aftermath of last January 6th, Biden still had hopes of healing the breach; now he is forced to admit he must stand and fight in it.”
— Crooked Media co-founder Jon Favreau: “Nothing animates Biden like talking about the threat to democracy. He should do it more.”
— The Daily Beast’s Matt Lewis: “To borrow a ridiculous line sometimes invoked about the previous guy, This is the day that Biden became president.”
— CNN security analyst Juliette Kayyem: “That speech was a counterterrorism speech. That’s how this ends, treating the elements that support violence or the threat of it for political gain as illegitimate. Biden didn’t try to negotiate; he sought to isolate. No other alternatives will work.”
— Breitbart’s reaction: “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris use January 6 to demand federal takeover of elections.” (Untrue.)
— The Bulwark editor at large Bill Kristol: “I’m cheered up by all the Republicans complaining Biden’s speech was partisan and conservatives whining it was divisive. They must be worried the speech was effective. And that it suggests an effective model going forward.”

— Fox’s Tucker Carlson said he would not show a single clip from the speech because it was “awful and weird.” Carlson claimed that Jan. 6 “barely rates as a footnote” as a historical event and claimed “really not a lot happened that day.” (Let that sink in.)

Related reading

— Good point by Max Boot: Why didn’t Biden deliver his 1/6 speech in prime time? “Seems like a missed opportunity to take control of the national conversation and go on the offensive,” Boot wrote… (Twitter)

— Counterpoint: Biden set the non-Fox news agenda for the entire day, and his words will carry through into Friday’s coverage too…

— Jeff Zeleny, Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak have the backstory about Biden’s decision to “confront Trump’s danger head on…” (CNN)
— Zack Beauchamp called out the “hollowness” of the speech: “The president’s rhetoric on democracy is great. It’s the policy that’s the problem.” (Vox)
— Dan Balz in Friday’s edition of the Post: “What marks the anniversary of the riot is that attitudes and perceptions among Trump’s voters have changed so little…” (Washington Post)

Cheney and Thompson on CNN’s special

CNN’s ‘Live from the Capitol’ prime time special emanated from the same stage where Biden spoke earlier in the day. CNN’s live blog captured many of the highlights here.

Jake Tapper interviewed Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney together, and both lawmakers addressed the 1/6 denialism that has dragged down the GOP. “Some of your fellow Republicans are out there,” Tapper said, “probably right now on certain other channels, saying this was no big deal… What do you say to them?” Cheney answered, “I say that’s how democracies die.” Somberly, she said “my party is not embracing truth, is not embracing substance and seriousness.”

As for the status of the House’s probe, Thompson said, “we are learning that individuals conspired to change the outcome of the election.” Tapper heard that news and followed up: “You said ‘individuals conspired,’ conspiracy obviously being a crime, individuals including people in the inner circle of the Trump White House?” Thompson responded, “Oh, no question about it.”

“It is beginning to rot their minds”

During CNN’s special, Jamie Raskin told Anderson Cooper “I feel bad” for people, including fellow lawmakers, who are in denial about 1/6. “They are essentially in a political religious cult,” Raskin said, “and their cult leader, Donald Trump, is telling them they can’t believe their own eyes, the evidence of their own experience and their own ears. So we should try to embrace those people and help them through what they’re going through — because they’ve been fed lies and they’re swallowing the lies. And some of them may have thought they were clever at the beginning. That they could go along with it and not believe it. But many of them have allowed the lies really to seep into their soul and it is beginning to rot their minds.”

On that note…

Cruz begs Carlson for forgiveness

Oliver Darcy writes: “Tucker Carlson, the effective head of the GOP’s media wing, is only getting more powerful. This week’s proof: The Fox host skewered Ted Cruz on Wednesday for referring to 1/6 as a ‘violent terrorist attack,’ since that’s a grave sin in right-wing circles. On Thursday, Cruz was on Carlson’s program essentially begging for forgiveness. Cruz told Carlson that ‘the way I phrased things’ was ‘sloppy and frankly dumb.’ Carlson said he didn’t buy it, telling Cruz his explanation for using the phrase didn’t even make sense.’ Cruz continued to plead for Carlson to absolve him of his sins. As NYT’s Michael Grynbaum noted, the back and forth ‘is really worth a watch for insight into the power dynamics of the modern GOP…'”

The key takeaway from right-wing media’s coverage

Oliver Darcy writes: “On the one-year anniversary of 1/6, the most powerful forces in right-wing media continued to mislead or just brazenly lie to their audiences about the attack on the Capitol, while others downplayed the events and mocked the news media for its coverage. The coverage from the right underscored how the toxic media environment that contributed to the violent attack by undermining confidence in the electoral system still exists and continues to work as a destructive force — one that is poisoning the information well that millions of Americans draw from for news. I got into this with Peter Kafka on the Recode Media podcast earlier this week. Until this media dynamic changes, it is difficult to imagine our broken politics will, either.”

“Web of lies”

Biden alluded to Trump’s “web of lies” on Thursday, and Trump spun new and old ones immediately afterward. Notably, though, Trump did not call into any right-wing TV channels. Fox and Newsmax provided basically the bare minimum amount of anniversary coverage. OAN didn’t even carry Biden live. Naturally, Fox fans were all over my Twitter mentions defending the lack of coverage, claiming they didn’t want to hear about Jan. 6 at all and bragging that Fox’s ratings would be high. This anonymous message from a vocal critic stood out: “Do you realize the way the media is covering and celebrating today makes Trump supporters like me hate you people even more?”

The irony of Fox’s coverage

Oliver Darcy writes: “One remarkable (and yet entirely predictable) quality of Fox’s coverage Thursday is that Biden and the news media received far more criticism and condemnation during discussions pertaining to January 6 than… the former President who incited the attack. It is impossible to overstate the fervor of anti-media, anti-Biden rhetoric that came out of Fox and the larger right-wing media ecosystem on Thursday. While reporters covered Biden’s speech and the day’s other remembrances, right-wing media personalities bashed the press and president for caring. That was truly the crux of their coverage…”





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