Facts Matter: No evidence rioters were just posing as Trump supporters

  • Stories circulating online incorrectly assert that Wednesday's Capitol rioters were antifa activists. At center is Jake Angeli, wearing fur hat with horns, who is a regular at pro-Trump events and a known follower of QAnon.

    Stories circulating online incorrectly assert that Wednesday's Capitol rioters were antifa activists. At center is Jake Angeli, wearing fur hat with horns, who is a regular at pro-Trump events and a known follower of QAnon. Associated Press

Updated 1/9/2021 6:17 PM

"Today was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol," Vice President Mike Pence said as he presided over a joint session of Congress late Wednesday following riots in Washington, D.C.

Legislators had resumed counting Electoral College votes to confirm President-elect Joe Biden. The session had been interrupted when pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol, resulting in a police officer's death, a rioter being fatally shot and destruction of property throughout the building.


Following the carnage, some placed the blame on antifa, a political group opposed to right-wing ideology.

A claim that rioters were "ANTIFA fascists in backwards MAGA hats," was tweeted out by Republican Rep. Mo Brooks from Alabama.

There is no evidence to substantiate that claim, according to PolitiFact.com. Photos and video from the scene show the rioters wearing Trump hats and clothing while carrying Trump flags.

Without any evidence, nearly 7,000 Twitter posts, with thousands of likes and retweets, said the mob was antifa members posing as Trump supporters, according to NBC News.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Fox News said she thought it was "the antifa folks" because she saw rioters in helmets and knee pads, which she said she hadn't seen at previous Trump rallies, NBC News said.

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Cruz skews numbers

Before the rioting began Wednesday, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said "nearly half the country" doesn't agree with the results of the recent election as he questioned the results from Arizona.

The Texas senator said 39% of Americans, 31% of independents and 17% of Democrats "believe the election was rigged."

That is misleading, according to PolitiFact.com.

Cruz used data from a Reuters/Ipsos online survey of 1,346 American adults conducted Nov. 13-17. The poll asked respondents to strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, strongly disagree or answer "not sure" to various questions.

For the question "I am concerned that the election is rigged," Cruz's office told PolitiFact he added the number of people who answered "strongly agree" and "somewhat agree" to arrive at the total figure he presented. On that question, the breakdown for Democrats was strongly agree: 7%, somewhat agree: 10%, somewhat disagree: 18%, strongly disagree: 62% and not sure: 3%.


But Cruz ignored a more direct question in the same survey that showed much lower numbers, PolitiFact said.

The survey also asked: "What comes close to your view of the 2020 election?" The choices were "legitimate and accurate," "the result of illegal voting or election rigging," or "don't know."

"The result of illegal voting or election rigging" was chosen by 28% of all respondents, 20% of independents, and 6% of Democrats.

Deaths misrepresented

A meme circulating on social media claims to show that the number of deaths in the U.S. in 2020 was similar to the toll in previous years, despite the number of people who have died from COVID-19.

The post is topped by the statement, "Looks like we just barely made it through a typical year, by the seat of our pants."

The chart is not accurate, according to Snopes.com, because the totals for 2020 have not yet been reported.

The chart lists statistics for deaths in the U.S. from 2010 to 2020. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 2,854,838 deaths for 2019. It appears the chart's 2020 total of 2,902,664 was taken from a CDC webpage listing "provisional counts of death certificate data" from Feb. 1 to Dec. 26, Snopes said. The CDC page states that the numbers are incomplete and "do not represent all deaths that occurred in that period."

The Associated Press on Dec. 22 said 2020 is on track to be the deadliest year in U.S. history, with an estimated 3.2 million deaths.

Number of voters wrong

Recent social media posts claim there are not enough voters in the U.S. to have elected Biden the next president.

"Donald Trump got 74 million votes and there are 133 million registered voters in the USA. If every single registered voter went out and voted there would only be 59 million votes left for Biden. How did he get 81 million votes?" questions a Twitter post that was shared more than 10,000 times.

There are many more than 133 million registered voters, though the exact number is hard to pinpoint as states manage their own voter rolls, which constantly change due to death and people moving to another state.

A lead researcher at voter-list vendor Catalist estimated the number of registered voters at 195 million to 215 million, the AP said. A spokesman for Aristotle, a different vendor, told the AP it had 215 million voters in its database before Nov. 3.

More than 136 million ballots were cast in 2016, and 211 million voters were on the rolls for the 2018 midterm election.

In the Nov. 3 election, Trump received 74,223,251 votes and Biden received 81,281,888.

• Bob Oswald is a veteran Chicago-area journalist and former news editor of the Elgin Courier-News. Contact him at boboswald33@gmail.com.

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