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Stefanik's Jan. 6 'counter programming' recycles false, misleading claims

North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) at a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago with former President Donald Trump in January 2022
Elise Stefanik
Rep. Elise Stefanik at a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago with former President Donald Trump in January 2022

In response to the televised Jan. 6 hearings, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik is one of the people leading the Republican Party’s so-called “counter programming.”

She has gone on national media outlets like Fox News encouraging people to tune out the hearings, and undercutting the investigation with a long list of questions and talking points. But many of her claims don't hold up to scrutiny.

Even the idea of counter programming is misleading.

Joe Biden is the President of the United States, and he was fairly and legitimately elected in a closely watched election in 2020. Yet Donald Trump and his allies – including Stefanik – amplified the notion that the election was stolen, an idea that eroded people’s trust in the electoral process and motivated a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol.

There really are not two sides to that story. But to this day, Trump still claims he won, and Stefanik refuses to say that Biden’s victory was legitimate.

Now, as we’re hearing from Trump’s own senior officials explaining that the election was not stolen – Stefanik has taken to national media outlets.

"Look at the Democrats on this committee, they have no basis. They are complete hypocrites," Stefanik said in an interview on Fox News. "They want to avoid, again, focusing on the issues that matter to the American people. But I think the American people are smart. They are tuning this out. They see these individuals for hypocrites and Pelosi parrots that they are."

Sometimes there is a kernel of truth to what Stefanik is saying about the Jan. 6 committee.

For example, she points out that one of the Democrats on the committee, Jamie Raskin, voted against certifying Donald Trump’s 2016 victory, and that’s correct.

But in that election, the loser had already conceded. The objection was symbolic. By contrast, Trump was still saying he won in 2020 and there was a concerted effort to overturn the result. So, not exactly apples to apples.

We talked about this with Rick Hasen late last year. He’s a professor specializing in election law at the University of California Irvine.

"If you tell a lie repeatedly enough and you embellish it with the veneer of telling a factual story, many people are going to believe it. This is being done for cynical political reasons. It's undermining the integrity of our election system and it's incredibly dangerous," Hasen said.

Other elements of Stefanik’s Jan. 6 counter-narrative also crumble under scrutiny.

Another example – she has repeatedly said the Jan. 6 committee is “illegitimate.” Republicans have tried to challenge the legitimacy of the committee in court, but none of those challenges have held up so far.

The party leadership has also revived conspiracy theories, like the idea that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed the National Guard from deploying to the Capitol on Jan. 6. There’s no evidence of that happening, and Pelosi is not responsible for securing the Capitol.

Then there’s the question of how bipartisan the committee is. House Republicans wanted the panel to include Jim Jordan and Jim Banks. But those were to two of the congressmen who voted to overturn Biden’s victory, so Pelosi rejected those picks. According to a New York Times fact check, Pelosi did have the authority to do that.

There are two Republicans on the panel: Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. Every member of the panel has said their mission is to find the facts – to tell the true story of Jan. 6.