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J6 Committee Admits Its Show Trials Were An Election-Year Publicity Stunt

Key members of the Jan. 6 Committee admit in a new PBS documentary that the operation was an election-year publicity stunt.

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Key members of the since-disbanded Select Committee on January 6th admit in a new PBS documentary that the entire operation was an election-year publicity stunt.

On Wednesday, Frontline PBS published a new documentary, “Democracy on Trial,” chronicling the House committee’s work. Pivotal players on the partisan probe conceded in the two-and-half-hour documentary that the panel’s public performances produced for prime-time television were orchestrated as entertainment media.

“The one thing that we knew was the information that we have is compelling,” said Illinois congressman-turned CNN commentator Adam Kinzinger. “The thing we needed to do was tell that to the American people in a compelling way.”

The Jan. 6 Committee turned to former ABC News President James Goldston to produce their hearings that occurred just months before the 2022 midterms. The panel also hired another producer whose résumé included stints at Bloomberg, ABC News “Nightline,” and “Good Morning America.”

“I got a call pretty much out of the blue from the January 6th committee,” Goldson told the documentary. “They wanted a storyteller.”

“While they were brilliant lawyers,” Goldston added, “storytelling for a mass audience is not what they do.”

“To bring in a guy like this who would think outside the box really did prove to be fruitful,” Robert Draper of New York Times Magazine tells the PBS documentarians. “It was Golston who really began to envision this as in a way a kind of miniseries that there would be sort of nine episodes and that these episodes would tackle particular themes.”

The first episode in the summer series ultimately pulled dismal ratings despite the committee’s biggest fans attempting to encourage viewership with free ice cream watch parties. Months before the season premier, House Democrats conceded the committee’s investigation was central to the party’s plans to maintain the majority in the November midterms.

“Jan. 6 committee faces a thorny challenge,” read a March 2022 headline from the Washington Post: “Persuading the public to care.” The article continued, “They hope their recommendations to prevent another insurrection will be adopted, but also that their work will repel voters from Republicans who they say helped propel the attack.”

The Soviet-style committee eventually became the legacy project for ousted Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who served as vice chair of the panel. By August, Cheney’s futile bid for re-election among one of the nation’s most conservative electorates was characterized as a “Kamikaze Campaign” by New York Magazine. Cheney overwhelmingly lost her effort for a fourth term and published a memoir last December. In the book, Cheney reflected on the committee’s hiring of Goldston to dramatize the hearings to boost Democrats’ electoral prospects.

“He came on board and brought with him a number of individuals with years of experience in network news,” Cheney wrote. “Goldston and his team were exceptionally helpful in facilitating that type of presentation. And our outline for each hearing — which took the form of a trial presentation — closely paralleled that structure.”


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