Many false or misleading statements have been made about the 2020 presidential election and the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot – by politicians and journalists alike.
AllSides is offering resources to help you spot misinformation and separate truth from fake news on these stories and others.
So far, the claims we’ve broken down here are:
- Was the 2020 presidential election stolen?
- Did the Jan. 6 mob kill a police officer?
- Was Jan. 6 a riot, protest, or insurrection?
Claim/Question: Was the 2020 election stolen?
Who Said/Spread It: Former President Donald Trump, allies, and critics of the establishment.
Truth vs Fiction: President Joe Biden won the 2020 election, and there’s no evidence that voter fraud decided it. Whether some combination of media bias and cultural/social pressures “stole” the election from Trump is a subjective matter.
Summary: There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, a fact agreed upon by sources across the spectrum.
The election wasn’t “stolen” by voter fraud. However, some argue the election was “stolen” through “tipping of the scales” in favor of one party as a result of extensive changes in voter laws during COVID-19, or as a result of media bias and censorship, such as that of the Hunter Biden laptop story weeks before the election.
While there is evidence of all of those things, whether that amounts to the election being “stolen” is subjective.
Read our full breakdown of this claim here.
Claim/Question: Rioters killed a Capitol police officer and/or others during the riot.
Who Said/Spread It: The New York Times, President Joe Biden, and others.
Truth vs Fiction: No member of security or law enforcement died on the day of the riot, and no one was beaten with a fire extinguisher. Officer Brian Sicknick died after suffering a stroke at his office the day after the riot, according to the medical examiner, who also said the riot “played a role” in his condition.
Summary: The New York Times (Lean Left bias) originally reported that Sicknick had been beaten to death with a fire extinguisher by the rioters. This was never corroborated, and was eventually debunked by the medical examiner’s report. The Times then affixed an editor’s note to the story, but the incorrect headline remains up.
Despite the lack of evidence, the claim was repeated and highlighted throughout news media at the time, was mentioned in the impeachment charges against Trump, was repeated months later by President Joe Biden, and continues to be recycled by other news outlets.
Others died during and after the riot, including:
- Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran, who was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer as rioters tried to breach the House chamber.
- Protester Kevin D. Greeson, who died of a heart attack outside the Capitol.
- Protester Rosanne Boyland, who died of an amphetamine overdose outside the Capitol. (Some outlets, including the New York Times, incorrectly reported that she was crushed by a stampede of rioters.)
- Protester Benjamin Philips, who died of a stroke.
- Officers Jeffrey Smith, Gunther Hashida, and Kyle DeFreytag of the Metropolitan Police Department and Officer Howard S. Liebengood of the Capitol Police, who all died by suicide following the riot.
Read our full breakdown of this claim and the New York Times’ story here.
Who Said/Spread It: Many journalists, pundits, politicians, and others.
Truth vs Fiction: Some security footage from that day shows people rioting, breaking down barriers, and smashing windows. Other footage shows people casually walking around the Capitol building, at times shadowed or guided by police officers. More than 1,000 people were charged with crimes stemming from the riot.
Summary: According to the January 6 House Select Committee investigating the riot, as well as many left-rated news sources and political pundits, the riot was a violent insurrection attempt.
In its nationally-televised hearings, the committee displayed security footage of rioters scrapping with police and trying to breach Capitol offices. On his primetime TV show, Carlson displayed footage of the rioters calmly strolling and “sightseeing” around the Capitol building, at times guided by police officers.
According to the Justice Department, “Approximately 518 individuals have pleaded guilty to a variety of federal charges” stemming from the riot, “many of whom faced or will face incarceration at sentencing. Approximately 133 have pleaded guilty to felonies. Another 385 have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors.”
Note that these guilty pleas refer to violence and rioting. Debate continues about whether that amounts to an insurrection. Some believe the term insurrection refers to any violent uprising against the government. Others say that if you used that definition, many protests and riots in the recent past, including in the previous summer associated with Black Lives Matter, would have also been called an insurrection.
Read our full breakdown of this question here.
This guide was written, reviewed, and edited by Managing Editor Henry A. Brechter (Center bias), CEO john Gable (Lean Right bias) and News Editor Joseph Ratliff (Lean Left bias).