Fact Check: Without evidence, Texas Attorney General Paxton says ‘antifa’ involved in Capitol riot

State News

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, at a rally in support of President Donald Trump called the “Save America Rally.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Wednesday following the riot outside and inside the U.S. Capitol, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton amplified a claim on Twitter that those involved “are not Trump supporters,” without providing any evidence.

Paxton tweeted a screenshot of a tweet from Paul Sperry, who has written columns for the New York Post and Brietbart and worked for the right-wing website WorldNetDaily, according to Georgetown researchers. Sperry’s tweet cited a “former FBI agent” who texted and told him “at least one ‘bus load’ of antifa thugs infiltrated peaceful Trump demonstrators.”

KXAN reached out to Paxton’s office Wednesday morning for information about why he posted the claim on Twitter about anti-fascists and any evidence he had to back up the claim. The Texas Tribune reports a spokesman told it Paxton was just sharing a tweet from a journalist.

Paxton spoke to crowds of Trump supporters in Washington D.C. Wednesday morning and told them “we will not quit fighting.” Both he and President Trump claimed election fraud had occurred last November, although both Republican and Democratic election officials in battleground states have said there was no widespread fraud, and the Supreme Court even rejected a lawsuit Paxton brought forward with those claims. Later Wednesday, part of the crowd broke into the Capitol, causing a lockdown and evacuation of the lawmakers inside who were counting electoral votes.

Paxton tweeted Wednesday “I am sorely disappointed today in the certification of the election, but I don’t believe violence is the answer.”

Meanwhile, Texas State Rep. Chris Turner has called for an investigation to “hold him accountable” for involvement in the riot.

“From filing a fraudulent lawsuit that fueled unhinged conspiracy theories about a free and fair election, to egging on the crowd of insurrectionists in Washington, DC, Paxton has played a major role in creating the national crisis that culminated with the first breach of our nation’s capital since the War of 1812,” Turner wrote in a statement. “Paxton’s actions would be shameful for any elected official, but are especially so for the top law enforcement officer of the state. Even today, Paxton has used social media to spread lies about yesterday’s acts of violence and insurrection.”

Turner said “everything needs to be on the table” for the legislature, which convenes next week, which he said could include passing laws to limit the Texas Attorney General’s Office’s jurisdiction, reducing appropriations to his office, censure or impeachment.

When asked earlier in the day about Paxton’s claims related to the protesters, a spokeswoman for Gov. Greg Abbott referred KXAN to his statement Wednesday: “Peaceful protest is a core tenant of the United States Constitution; violence and mayhem are not. The violence and mayhem must stop. America is founded on the rule of law, and the law enforcement officers working to restore order at the United States Capitol must be heeded.”

Fact-checking claims

Far-right activists have made similar claims of “bus loads” of anti-fascists groups joining protests in the past, according to the New York Times, which fact-checked a number of viral claims that surfaced Wednesday. Some of them purported to find evidence of anti-fascist groups but instead revealed connections to far-right movements. A number of those at the Capitol have been identified as Trump supporters, including a man who broke into Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office. Another man spotted inside the Capitol wearing fur and horns was identified as a familiar face at pro-Trump rallies in Arizona and a QAnon conspiracy theorist.

During a speech on the House floor Wednesday night, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, cited a since-removed Washington Times article that claimed a facial recognition company had identified antifa members in the crowd. “I don’t know if the reports are true,” Gaetz said before discussing the article. The company in question told both the Daily Beast and Buzzfeed News the article had been incorrect and instead it had identified a supporter of the right-wing conspiracy Q-Anon and two Neo-Nazis.

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