In the six months leading up to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Anthony Antonio spent his days watching Fox News – a habit that actually made him ill, his attorney told a D.C. federal magistrate judge on Thursday.
His ailment? “Foxitis,” his attorney said, the HuffPost reported. “He became hooked with what I call . . . ‘Foxmania.’ “
In the virtual hearing, which went awry when another alleged Capitol rioter interrupted with obscenities, Antonio’s attorney, Joseph Hurley, claimed that Fox News’s decision to regularly air then-President Donald Trump’s false claims of mass election fraud contributed to Antonio’s decision to participate in the insurrection.
Antonio “started believing what was being fed to him,” Hurley said, according to HuffPost.
Critics have targeted Fox for giving a platform for Trump and his allies to elevate baseless claims about the election, many of which were later echoed by Trump supporters who invaded the Capitol. Fox News also faces billion-dollar lawsuits from voting technology companies Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic, which allege the network knowingly aired false claims that the voting machines were rigged.
Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post on Hurley’s claims.
Antonio, 27, who turned himself in to police on April 20, is charged with unlawful and violent entry of the Capitol, police obstruction and destruction of government property, according to an arrest warrant.
During his hearing Thursday, Hurley told U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin M. Meriweather that Antonio had lost his job thanks to the pandemic and moved in with new roommates in Chicago. It was only then that he began watching Fox News religiously, according to Hurley, because his roommates frequently watched the network.
Antonio’s hearing grew increasingly chaotic Thursday when another alleged rioter, who was waiting for his own hearing, interjected repeatedly and spoke over Hurley. Landon Copeland, 33, who is charged with several federal offenses including assaulting officers and throwing a metal fence at law enforcement, went on several obscene and belligerent tirades.
When Hurley mentioned “Foxitis,” Copeland yelled, “I object.” The Utah native later said, “F— all of you,” “I don’t like you people” and “You can’t come get me if I don’t want you to,” according to the Daily Beast. The judge ordered Copeland evaluated for mental competency.
Antonio’s case includes footage from Jan. 6 that showed him wearing a bulletproof vest with a patch representing the Three Percenters, an anti-government extremist group, prosecutors said. He is seen shouting at officers holding off the crowd: “You want war? We got war. 1776 all over again,” according to an affidavit.
Later, Antonio was captured on video being handed a riot shield, which was seemingly stolen from law enforcement. He eventually used the shield to push his way to the front of the crowd, investigators said.
Footage also showed Antonio squirting water at an officer who was dragged into the crowd and then throwing the bottle in his direction. Law enforcement body-camera footage showed Antonio getting close to an officer and telling him: “I’ll be honest, this isn’t against you personally. This is against our country,” according to the affidavit.
“We will not back down,” he added.
He eventually took a police officer’s gas mask and made his way into the Capitol by jumping through a broken window, according to court documents.
In an interview with the FBI in February, Antonio told investigators that he observed six men drag a police officer down the steps of the Capitol – apparently a reference to D.C. police officer Michael Fanone, who suffered a heart attack during the incident. He said that he saw the officer beg for help and could see “death in the man’s eyes,” according to the affidavit, adding that he should have helped.
“[I] missed my judgment, I didn’t help him when I should [have],” he told investigators.
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