Religious-right leaders, including the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, promoted former President Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and actively supported Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the election. And religious-right activists have downplayed the seriousness of the Capitol insurrection and promoted gaslighting claims that insurrectionists were not really Trump supporters. So, it should come as no surprise that Perkins and other religious-right leaders are giving cover to Republican efforts to resist fact-finding and truth-telling about the Jan. 6 insurrection.
In Thursday’s edition of Perkins’ “Washington Update” email newsletter, Perkins claimed that “the far-Left” is trying to “turn the Capitol riots into a synonym for jihadist terrorism,” adding, “Republicans want to know: what’s the point?” Perkins continued:
Pursuing a 9/11-type probe would only politicize the tragedy even more. Besides, there’s already a nationwide investigation into the events of that horrible day. It’s called law enforcement. To add another layer of expensive, partisan, government-sponsored fault-finding sounds like just another DNC fundraising gimmick. And the American people know it.
Perkins’ article promoted Republican leaders’ talking points that Democrats were not interested in compromise and were just looking for a way to “weaponize what happened in January and take voters’ minds off of the White House’s dismal performance.” He called it “political theater” that is “about creating a narrative, aided by the media, that all Republicans are dangerous extremists.”
In reality, the legislation to create a commission to investigate the insurrection was a compromise negotiated between Democratic leaders and Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., who MSNBC described as a close ally of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Democrats made some major concessions to meet Republican demands. But after Trump demanded that Republicans shut down debate over the commission, both McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced their opposition. Even after McCarthy threw Katko under the bus, 35 Republican House members bucked McCarthy’s lead, voting to support the creation of the commission.
Perkins’ Thursday email newsletter promoted other right-wing messaging about the proposed commission, equating protests against abusive policing with an effort to stop members of Congress from carrying out their constitutional obligation to affirm the Electoral College results. Perkins said Congress should include an investigation of last year’s Black Lives Matter protests. “Democratic cities were burned to the ground,” he claimed.
Perkins also offered a platform for McCarthy to make the same points on a “Washington Watch” video, where McCarthy said a congressional probe is not necessary because law enforcement agencies are investigating that day’s violence.
McCarthy and Perkins collectively ranted about how terrible they claim the Biden administration has been. Their views, however, are not shared by the American public. Biden’s strong job approval rating is far higher than Trump’s ever was.
Anyone hearing Perkins’ claim that he is simply an advocate for bipartisanship should recall that he is backing Republican voter-suppression efforts in states across the country, and in April he urged Christians to pray that God would allow gridlock to descend on Washington to stymie the Biden administration’s agenda, which he has said is “literally from the pit of hell.”
Perkins has criticized the violent insurrectionists as “idiots,” but as far as we can tell has shown no interest in reflecting on whether his stolen-election rhetoric contributed to the rage that motivated the Jan. 6 attempt to overturn the election results.