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A Look At The Rhetoric Around The Storming Of U.S. Capitol


All right. We are continuing our coverage of the armed insurrection of a pro-Trump mob that forced its way into the U.S. Capitol. President Trump has issued a statement from the White House in an apparent attempt to diffuse the situation. In a video he posted to Twitter, he told protesters to go home and go home in peace but not before repeating the false claim that the election was stolen and expressing some kinship with the pro-Trump protesters. He said, quote, "we love you; you're very special," and, quote, "I know how you feel." NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik has seen this video and joins us now with more.

Hey, David.


CHANG: So this is not the first time that President Trump has offered mixed messages to his supporters, right?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, it takes me back to Charlottesville, as I'm sure it does many people, where he - after, you know, the terrible protests there, violence there - a woman was killed there. He said, well, you know, there are good people on both sides, but I'm against violence. That's not really a fair account of what happened, and what he's saying now - the idea that we love you, you're very special, but go home - you know, that's not really all that mixed message. It's basically trying to fuse it as a tactic but saying essentially, he supports their cause because their cause is him.

And I might add, in the last hour, he tweeted again. He said, these are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly and unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love and in peace. That's not really disassociating himself from almost anything. He's just saying, stand down.

CHANG: All right. And, of course, all of this was posted to Twitter, which has issued fact-check labels and warning labels on disputed content, including content from the president himself. Tell us, how did Twitter as a platform today react to this video statement?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, what it did was it put up two kinds of warnings. It says, listen; the claims contained in here are disputed - basically saying this stuff probably isn't true. And it also cordoned it off. It said this tweet can't be replied to, retweeted or liked due to - and this is an incredibly telling phrase - a risk of violence. So it says this is incendiary. This is inflammatory. We don't want to amplify it, but we're also not shutting him down. So that's how they dealt with that.

CHANG: Now, this footage of all the violence, all the chaos that has been erupting today throughout, well, the Capitol and in parts of Washington, D.C. - it has been on NPR. It has been on other news broadcasters. It's been online. How have news media organizations in general put all of today's events into context? Give us sort of a survey.

FOLKENFLIK: I think you've seen people describe it for what it is but also scramble. You can almost hear and watch them try to figure out what the right words are to describe this. You know, 22 1/2 years ago, along with our just departed colleague, David Greene, I covered a day where a gunman - a crazed gunman got into the U.S. Capitol and killed two people. This was much worse. And this was an assault on a building and property, on people.

A woman, according to the Associated Press and other news outlets, has died. And on pillars of democracy - this branch of government that was trying to affirm a vote. And they called it, at times, an insurrection. They called it a riot. They called it an attempted coup and, as we heard from Senator Romney, an insurrection led by the president himself.

CHANG: And really quick, you know, many people have called Twitter's warning labels as not doing enough in the past. What has the reaction been to Twitter's labeling decisions today?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, Twitter has basically cordoned it off but not prevented people from sharing it. You know, Facebook, which is a supporter of NPR, I should note, and YouTube, which is owned by Google - another supporter financially of NPR - those outlets essentially said, we're taking this stuff down. It's too much. Donald Trump still has a home on Twitter, much as they try to cordon off what he says as unreliable and incendiary.

CHANG: That is NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik.

Thank you, David.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.