Capitol Riot Suspects Are on a PR Blitz

·4 min read
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Police Handouts

According to federal indictments, Kelly and Connie Meggs are members of the Oath Keepers militia who used the chaos around the U.S. Capitol riot to enter the building in an organized “stack.” Dressed in camouflage, the husband-and-wife pair from Florida can be seen on security footage illegally entering the Capitol and walking around the building with fellow Oath Keepers.

Kelly Meggs, according to prosecutors, is an Oath Keepers leader with the alias “OK Gator.” Both of the Meggs are facing conspiracy charges for their alleged role in the riot.

To sympathetic readers of the right-wing blog The Gateway Pundit, though, the Meggs are humble farmers unfairly abducted by the federal government and forced to deal with some loose donkeys. In a Tuesday post on Gateway Pundit, blogger Jim Hoft claimed the Meggs are on the verge of losing their farm after an FBI raid in which, they claim, the FBI accidentally freed their donkeys.

“During the arrest, the FBI let all of their donkeys lose (sic) in the neighborhood,” Hoft writes.

The donkeys were later returned to the farm. The solution to this injustice for Hoft’s far-right audience, according to his blog: donating tens of thousands of dollars to the Meggs.

The rioters’ stories have made for big money on GiveSendGo, a Christian crowdfunding site that has become a go-to option for right-wing figures who would likely be banned from more mainstream sites like GoFundMe. The Meggs family has raised more than $80,000 as of Tuesday, while the family of Oath Keeper Kenneth Harrelson has raised more than $160,000.

Members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers charged in the aftermath of Jan. 6 riot have been on a public relations blitz in the right-wing media, trying to recast themselves as victims of government overreach and a thuggish FBI. They’re also raising a lot of money along the way.

That PR push has extended to Ashli Babbitt, the Air Force veteran who was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer as she tried to break into the Speaker’s Lobby during the riot. Terrell Roberts, an attorney for Babbitt’s family, appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show on March 12 and claimed police should have just arrested Babbitt instead.

“We should have some statement explaining why they needed to shoot this lady,” Roberts said.

Roberts declined to comment.

Much of the glowing coverage of the riot suspects has come from The Gateway Pundit, a popular far-right blog that frequently promotes hoaxes. Gateway Pundit founder Hoft, who holds a prominent enough place in the right-wing media to be invited to the Trump White House in 2019, has run several stories promoting fundraisers for the riot suspects.

Proud Boy Christopher Worrell allegedly shot pepper spray at law enforcement officers at the start of the riot, according to a federal indictment, after riding to Washington from Florida in a van with a crew of other Proud Boys. Worrell wore a tactical vest and earpiece to the riot, according to prosecutors. When law enforcement officers raided his East Naples, Florida, home, they found it filled with Proud Boys gear, including challenge coins representing different chapters of the far-right men’s group.

Sen. Johnson Says He ‘Wasn’t Concerned’ by Capitol Rioters Since They Weren’t BLM Protesters

The Gateway Pundit write-up of Worrell’s arrest, by contrast, makes no mention of Proud Boys. The blog post claims Worrell was “Arrested by Heavily Armed Feds With TANKER TRUCKS,” an unusual way to describe armored trucks.

While Kelly and Connie Meggs have been embraced by right-wing blog readers, Harrelson, another Florida Oath Keeper who allegedly entered the Capitol alongside them, may have had the best reception.

Harrelson, who faces one conspiracy count and three other charges, allegedly plotted ahead of the riot with other Oath Keepers in meetings with aliases like “Gator 6” or, sometimes, just by using his own name. Harrelson was caught on video illegally entering the Capitol alongside the Meggses, according to his indictment.

Like other supporters of arrested riot suspects, Harrelson’s wife Angel Harrelson appeared on The Gateway Pundit to claim that her husband was being unfairly treated and that FBI agents had trashed her home while carrying out a search warrant.

“They proceeded to escort me outside of my home,” she said. “I was upset that my things were going to be tossed around everywhere and that they would make a huge mess. “

In a message posted on The Gateway Pundit, Angel Harrelson claimed the Oath Keepers are “made up of a diverse group of people”

“One of the worst lies being spread about them is that they are somehow ‘white supremacists,’” Harrelson’s wife wrote. “That is insulting and ridiculous. I’m Cajun, and therefore my ancestors and family members are black as well as American Indian.”

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