The first hearing of the Jan. 6 commission begins with a lie

Stubborn facts.

And we’re back!

The big news out of Washington, D.C., this week is that the House select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol held its first hearing.

How did it go? Well, this depends entirely on whether you believe a significant falsehood being told within the first five minutes of the televised hearing represents an inauspicious start for the commission.

“We are going to be guided solely by the facts,” said Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi in his opening remarks. “The facts of what happened on Jan. 6, in the run-up to that tragic day, and what has taken place since … There’s no place for politics or partisanship in this investigation. Our only charge is to follow the facts where they lead us.”

He then said, “We know that seven people lost their lives, that more than 140 police officers suffered injuries.”

Well, so much for the following the facts.

Though it’s true an estimated 140 police officers were injured defending the Capitol, only one person — 35-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran and Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed by a law enforcement official — died in the riot.

No other fatalities occurred during the attack. No one succumbed later to injuries sustained during the assault, either.

Trump supporters Benjamin Phillips and Kevin Greeson, whom members of the press allege incorrectly were victims of the Jan. 6 riot, died of natural causes, a medical examiner ruled in April. Trump supporter Rosanne Boyland, whom initial reports claimed was crushed to death by the pro-Trump mob, died of a drug overdose.

Then, there’s Capitol Hill Police Officer Brian Sicknick, whose death media attribute to “injuries suffered during the riot.” This is not true. He suffered two strokes after the protest and died of natural causes, according to Francisco Diaz, the chief medical examiner in Washington, D.C. There is no evidence Sicknick suffered internal or external injuries from the incident, Diaz said.

Even beyond this, one might wonder how Thompson gets to the number seven. He is likely including the two police officers who committed suicide in the days after the attack.

So, to be perfectly factual, just one person, a Trump supporter killed by law enforcement, died during or as a direct result of the assault.

Perhaps those two suicides ought to be included in the total figure of those who died because of the riot. The families of those officers maintain the attack on the Capitol was the thing that pushed the men over the edge. But it is dubious to add Phillips, Greeson, Boyland, and Sicknick to the overall total.

Unfortunately, Chairman Thompson is not alone in playing fast with the numbers. As recently as this month, NPR and CBS News both alleged the riot “left five people dead,” including Sicknick, whose death, again, was ruled unrelated to the events of Jan. 6.

The Los Angeles Times this month reported broadly “five people died either in the melee or in the hours after.”Roll Call and The Hill this month reported “five people died in connection with Jan. 6” and “five people died in events related to the Jan. 6 insurrection,” respectively.

Reuters this week took a slightly different tack, reporting instead, “Four people died on the day of the violence … A Capitol police officer who had been attacked by protesters died the following day.”

Though these reports are not technically wrong, it’s clear media outlets are being cute with the facts, presenting deaths unrelated to the violence of Jan. 6 as if they were a direct result of what happened at the Capitol building.

The Jan. 6 riot was an appalling event. There is no point, or honor, in denying that. It doesn’t require embellishment from politicians or the press.