In the months following the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, corporate journalists and lawmakers have treated the incident as comparable to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, both in their rhetoric and legislative action.
During a rally in support of former President Donald Trump and his allegations of election fraud, hundreds of demonstrators unlawfully entered the Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the certification of the 2020 election. The incident led by various means to five deaths and was rightly condemned by virtually every prominent Republican, including the former president himself.
The hijacking of four passenger planes during the Sept. 11 attacks, on the other hand, was a blatant act of terrorism coordinated by the militant Islamist group Al-Qaeda against America. The attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. killed nearly 3,000 people and was considered by many to be an act of war.
It is clear the Jan. 6 riot and 9/11 were drastically different in scope and outcome. But that hasn’t stopped corporate media outlets and lawmakers from comparing the two events.
During a roundtable aired on ABC’s “This Week” in late May, commentator George Will said he “would like to see January 6th burned into the American mind as firmly as 9/11 because it was that scale of a shock to the system.”
Former Republican strategist Matthew Dowd told MSNBC host Joy Reid during an appearance earlier in July that “January 6 was worse than 9/11 because it’s continued to rip our country apart.” Reid went on to compare the state of the country to fascist Italy and Dowd, without a hint of irony, replied “the only thing you can do is rid the country of that political party [the GOP].”
Lincoln Project co-founder Steve Schmidt made a similar comparison during a virtual town hall organized by the group earlier in July. Schmidt claimed the Jan. 6 riot was a “profoundly more dangerous” event and is likely to cause more deaths than 9/11 in the long term. (RELATED: Biden Calls January 6 ‘The Worst Attack On Our Democracy Since The Civil War’)
Lincoln Project co-founder Steve Schmidt says January 6 was “profoundly more dangerous than the 9/11 attacks” and “in the end… likely to kill a lot more Americans” including “the casualties of the wars that lasted 20 years following it”
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) July 8, 2021
“The 1/6 attack for the future of the country is a profoundly more dangerous event than the 9/11 attacks,” he said. “And in the end, the 1/6 attacks are likely to kill a lot more Americans than were killed in the 9/11 attacks which will include the casualties of the wars that lasted twenty years following it.”
In a report published by Vice News earlier in July, several Capitol Hill reporters present at the Jan. 6 riot described the ongoing “trauma” they have experienced since the incident. Some claimed they had to seek therapy or retire early because of trauma, while others said they are still losing sleep and are afraid to even be at the Capitol.
The report prompted criticism on social media. While the reporters in the story did not mention 9/11, their description of the Jan. 6 riot made it appear as though they had been covering a war zone or a major terrorist attack.
Debra Burlingame, the sister of American Airlines Flight 77 pilot Charles Burlingame, who was killed in the 9/11 attacks, denounced the comparison between that terrorist attack and the Jan. 6 riot in a May op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal.
Burlingame wrote the comparison is “deeply offensive and sad” and that treating the two events as similar not only “diminishes the horror” of 9/11 but “tells a false story” to Americans who were too young to experience that day.
She also argued the comparison is “an attempt to reconfigure the ‘domestic terrorist’ narrative” in context of an actual terrorist attack the country suffered. This narrative is evident in attempts by lawmakers earlier this year to establish a 9/11-style commission investigating the Jan. 6 riot.
Congress had introduced plans in May to establish such a commission and the idea received backing from President Joe Biden’s administration. But both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy objected over concerns about “political misdirections” and Democrats’ potential influence over the commission.
Senate Republicans ultimately shut down a bipartisan bill that would have established a commission in late May. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, introduced a resolution in late June that would establish a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 riot. (RELATED: House Select Committee Sets Date For First Hearing On Jan. 6 Riot)
Calls for further investigation into the Jan. 6 riot comes as the Biden administration is focusing more on domestic terrorism. Many prominent Democrats, including Biden, have referred to the rioters as “domestic terrorists.” Biden has also faced pressure to charge rioters as domestic terrorists and create a White House post working with intelligence and law enforcement agencies.