Some Trump supporters, meanwhile, are blaming the violence on Antifa

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IT IS SHOCKING to think that an American president would end his time in office by inciting his supporters to storm the Capitol—especially one who in his re-election campaign played on fears that his rival would let America lapse into lawlessness. Shocking, but not surprising. Even after a mob of his supporters overwhelmed police to ransack the legislature on January 6th, President Donald Trump continued to stoke the conspiracy theories that motivated them, insisting that November’s presidential election was “stolen” and “fraudulent”.

Such ambivalence about the mayhem that unfolded in Washington, DC, yesterday, in which one woman was shot dead and three others reportedly died from “medical emergencies”, seems to be shared by many who voted for Mr Trump. In a survey of 1,397 American voters by YouGov, a pollster, more Republicans said they supported the actions of the pro-Trump extremists than opposed them (45% to 43% respectively). In contrast, nearly every Democrat polled, and two out of three independents, said they opposed the rampage (see chart). The two sides were split, not just on their opinions about the news, but on their understanding of the underlying facts. Videos showed rioters attacking police officers and breaking windows; guns, pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails were found after the event. Yet 58% of Republican respondents said the protest was “more peaceful” rather than “more violent”. Just 4% of Democrats thought the same.

Republican voters’ opinion may change in the coming days as they are exposed to the narrative being pushed by right-wing media. Commentators on Fox News and Newsmax, two conservative cable-news networks, have not denied that violence took place—but have instead raised doubts about the true identities of the perpetrators. “These people don’t look like Trump supporters,” said Greg Kelly, a Newsmax host. “I’d like to know who the agitators were,” said Sean Hannity during his programme on Fox. Several Republican politicians have made similar claims. And Mo Brooks and Matt Gaetz, two Republican congressmen, have both alleged that members of the left-wing Antifa movement, masquerading as Trump supporters, were to blame.

It is an extraordinary argument to have about an event that was promoted by the president himself. “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” Mr Trump tweeted on December 19th. “Be there, will be wild!”.

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