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Tucker Carlson Can’t Stop Obsessing Over Stephen Colbert Crew’s Capitol Arrest

Actor and comedian Robert Smigel performs as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog in a hallway, being filmed by a cameraman

Last week, some members of CBS’ Late Show crew were arrested on Capitol Hill. The seven-person crew spent two days filming a segment featuring the iconic Triumph the Insult Comic Dog talking to lawmakers in their offices across the street from the Capitol. They were doing some “last-minute puppetry,” as Stephen Colbert put it, in a hallway at the end of the second day when they were detained and charged with unlawful entry. Apparently, the building was closed to visitors at the time and the group had been asked to leave.

According to Fox News, that is the exact same thing—worse, even—than the January 6 riot where a few thousand people stormed the U.S. Capitol building and tried to stop Congress from certifying legitimate election results.

Fox News is obsessed with this story. The day after the arrest, Tucker Carlson went on the air and said the Late Night staff had committed “insurrection,” which is just simply not what that means.

Colbert dedicated his monologue Monday night to addressing the arrest and he responded to Tucker’s accusation, saying, “First of all, what? Second of all, huh? Third of all, they weren’t in the Capitol building. Fourth of all—and I’m shocked I have to explain the difference—but an insurrection involves disrupting the lawful actions of Congress and howling for the blood of elected leaders, all to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.” This, he added, was “first-degree puppetry. This was high jinks with intent to goof. Misappropriation of an old ‘Conan’ bit. It’s really Conan’s fault.”

But Carlson keeps insisting he doesn’t know the difference between these two events. On Friday, he said that what the Late Night staff did was “exactly like what happened on Jan. 6.” On Tuesday, he wondered why “Colbert’s employees were not sent to the D.C. jail for a year and a half in solitary confinement” like a few of those charged with storming the Capitol were. (Despite what Carlson says, most Capitol riot defendants have been allowed to go free while awaiting trial.)

Carlson also tried to make the case that Triumph the Insult Comic Dog was not merely filming a comedy sketch, but actually trying to overthrow democracy. While Colbert and his team say they were shooting a series of pre-arranged interviews, Carlson says they were actually there to “harass” Republican members of Congress—specifically Marjorie Taylor Greene, whom the crew reportedly approached at one point—and “disrupt” their business.

“Preventing her or any other member of Congress from carrying out official duties as a representative is by definition an attack on democracy,” he said. “So how is what Stephen Colbert did different from what the protesters on January 6th have been convicted of doing? That’s a very good question.” (It is not.)

Tucker Carlson isn’t the only Fox News personality to revel in what they see as the ultimate “gotcha” moment. The panel on The Five mused over the idea of the staff being “treated equally under the law” and also said that the crew’s experience of harmless, mildly mischievous trespassing was the same as “90, 95 percent” of those at the Capitol on January 6. On his show, Jesse Watters said that Colbert himself “essentially incited an insurrection.”

This narrative has even made its way to Congress. Rep. Jim Jordan went on Newsmax to insist that the House January 6 committee can’t be taken seriously if they’re also treating the Capitol like it’s “comedy hour.”

Jordan and fellow Republican Congressman Rodney Davis also sent a letter to Capitol police complaining about the crew and comparing their presence to the “so-called reconnaissance tours of the Capitol” a number of Republicans have been accused of giving to insurrectionists ahead of the riot.

Republicans and right-wing media outlets are desperate to undermine the legitimacy of the ongoing January 6 investigation, to the point that they will cling to any false equivalency they can find, even if it’s just Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. That’s literally the best they can do.

(image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.