- Courtesy of U.S. Department of Justice
- Nicholas Languerand posted this selfie on Twitter
Finally, Nicholas Languerand was in the thick of it.
He had gone to Washington, D.C., to watch president Donald Trump stand on a podium near the White House and insist that the election was a fraud. He had followed as thousands marched to the U.S. Capitol and through security barriers. He’d looked on, for hours, as the mob transformed a ceremonial tunnel on the lower west terrace into a battlefield that D.C. Police officers would come to remember as the “tunnel of death.”
Now Languerand was on the front line, staring down a row of exhausted officers behind riot shields who were absorbing blows from baseball bats, too outnumbered to fight back but unwilling to cede their ground. It was a minute after 5 p.m. on January 6, 2021. A shirtless “QAnon Shaman” wearing horns and pelts had already walked onto the Senate floor. Elected officials were being evacuated. Even the person Languerand called “Mr. President” had, at 4:17 p.m., put out a video message instructing his “very special” foot soldiers to go home.
Languerand picked up whatever weapons he could find. Sticks, shards of broken Capitol furniture, an audio speaker that someone else had ripped from its mount. The former Army private and amateur boxer hoisted a heavy traffic bollard that had been circulating through the crowd like a beach ball at a Jimmy Buffett concert and hurled it at the police.
Then, tear gas. An armored Virginia State Police trooper stepped through the police line, pointing a rifle at the mob, its tactical light piercing plumes of green fog. The trooper aimed it down the marble steps at the young man from Vermont who was crouched behind a riot shield: Languerand.
“Hold your ground!” exhorted another man from a safe distance.
The rioters were retreating. The short stairwell to the tunnel archway emptied, though Languerand didn’t seem to know it. His eyes were still fixed on the police he saw as traitors, and for one brief moment, he stood at the front of an insurrection, alone.
In the hours and days that followed, when most Americans felt horror and disgust, Languerand was still riding high. On social media, he posted a selfie from the Capitol terrace of himself wearing a Trump beanie, bandanna and QAnon sweatshirt. The melee, he said in an Instagram video, was “legendary,” and though the president’s army hadn’t prevailed, he was eyeing round two.
“Next time we come back with rifles,” he wrote. “It’s not a game.”
It didn’t take long for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to identify him. By April, he was arrested on felony charges. He eventually pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer with a deadly weapon, and last week, a federal judge sentenced him to 44 months in prison. His sentence was the third-longest yet for a January 6 rioter.
Though Languerand had not injured anyone with his makeshift missiles, federal prosecutors noted that his violence that day was the culmination of months of increasingly confrontational behavior back home in Vermont. Agents found a notebook in his Wolcott trailer with a “target list.” On his cellphone, they found images of him posing in a Guy Fawkes mask with a semiautomatic rifle.
His online writings indicated that he believed the world was run by a cabal of satanic elites who molested children through a network of pizzerias — a foundational theory of the cultlike QAnon movement — and that “Mr. President” was going to stop them. He owned a tactical vest with a QAnon patch on it.
- Courtesy of U.S. Department of Justice
- Nicholas Languerand posted this selfie on Twitter
Languerand, 26, appears to be the only Vermonter arrested for his actions on January 6. His case has gone virtually unnoticed in his home state because the feds arrested him at his grandparents’ home in Little River, S.C., and identified him as a resident of that state. But he is further proof that insurrectionists come from all corners of the country.
As his sentencing date approached, Languerand sent a letter to Seven Days from Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Va., to offer an interview. He said he intended to return to Vermont and wanted to explain himself to his neighbors. U.S. marshals insist that prisoners in their custody get approval from several parties, including their attorneys, before they can give media interviews. Languerand’s attorney had not given formal approval as of press time.
But in a later email to Seven Days, Languerand said that “the whole truth of what happened” on January 6 “has not been told.”
“As for my role in it, I've accepted that by any standard, what I did was wrong. Violence has no place in the world we seek to create,” he said. “So many things have been said concerning my motivations and character that are categorically and demonstrably false. Ultimately I am faithful that the truth will prevail."
The January 6 insurrection has trained a spotlight on the Oath Keepers and other far-right groups that have sought to press their political agenda, through violence if necessary. But Languerand’s case encapsulates a different path to violent extremism — one that swept a jobless Vermonter with a deeply troubled past into a vortex of far-fetched conspiracy theories and radical politics through the seductive powers of social media sirens such as QAnon.
Languerand’s descent into a universe of bizarre-sounding pedophile plots led him into a worsening series of threats at home in Vermont before eventually taking him to the front line of the nation's worst case of insurrectionist violence since the Civil War.
As Trump’s followers, including the majority of Republicans, continue to minimize and rewrite the story of January 6, millions of Americans do not see Languerand as the troubled, volatile and exploitable young man he was when he hitched a ride to the Capitol a little more than a year ago. Increasingly, they see him exactly how he sees himself: as a patriot.
- Colin Flanders
- Route 15 in Wolcott, Vt.
John Languerand arrived under the cover of darkness. In a drunken rage, he opened the propane valve to let the noxious gas rush into the small trailer, then cranked the heat, turning his family’s Wolcott home into a time bomb.
At 4 a.m., the bomb went off.
The explosion woke a neighbor, who called it in. Police knew that John Languerand drank too much and had a temper. The day before, they’d had to bar him from his own house after an argument with his wife. So when the call came in, their first thoughts went to her, and to the couple’s 4-year-old son, Nicholas. Was the boy inside?
He wasn’t. But he would never be the same.
The July 1999 incident, which is detailed in court papers related to Nicholas Languerand’s January 6 court case, began a long period of instability for the boy. Languerand’s grandmother Susan Killian later recalled in court records that her young grandson drew pictures of a house on fire during therapy sessions and asked her questions such as, “Why did my dad burn all of my toys?”
His father was arrested and served six months in jail for arson. The younger Languerand ping-ponged between parents over the next dozen years, enduring 16 moves and nine school changes before he’d turned 18.
His grandparents, both respected in the Wolcott community, provided him haven whenever they could but were unable to redirect his worst impulses, according to accounts that Languerand’s attorney submitted in connection with his court case.
One night, while at his grandparents’ house for dinner, a middle-school-age Languerand told them about a time when his father passed out drunk, and he and a friend took swigs from the leftover booze until he got sick, the documents say.
In a phone call on Saturday, Languerand’s father denied the open-container incident and said his son is responsible for his choices as an adult. “Everyone’s got their childhood stories,” he said. Languerand’s mother could not be reached for comment.
By the time Languerand reached high school, he was skipping school, hanging out with older kids, using drugs. When Languerand turned 16, his mother and stepfather proposed a family road trip to the Hoover Dam, according to the papers submitted to the court. A couple of days later, he awoke from a nap to find that they had reached the actual, intended destination: a gated Utah reform school known as Cross Creek Programs that had a reputation for treating its students harshly. Staff took the teenager inside, shaved his head, removed his earring and escorted him to his room, where he lived for 18 months.
Languerand would later describe his experience at the reform school as “difficult and unwelcomed” but said it provided him with the tools he needed to turn his life around. After completing the program, he moved in with his grandparents and obtained his GED, posting high scores. He joined a boxing club in Hardwick, where one training partner remembered him as genuine and humble. He enlisted in the military, moved to North Carolina and married his longtime girlfriend.
But the plan changed. His marriage failed, and he began using drugs again to “cope with the loneliness,” he would later write. He tested positive for cocaine and was discharged from the Army.
His ex filed a relief from abuse order against him in early 2019. She described numerous frightening incidents in court documents, including one in which Languerand allegedly threatened to shoot her in the head if she went to a party. She requested that he be kept “as far as possible” from her.
- Colin Flanders
- Nicholas Languerand's Wolcott trailer
He also clashed with the local authorities. In March 2019, when his vehicle got towed during a traffic stop in Morristown, he screamed profanities at local police. A year later, Languerand received a letter from the town offices noting that he had failed to license his dog. He immediately lashed out, leaving a vaguely threatening message for the animal control officer that prompted police to dispatch a patrol car to drive by the official’s house later that night. The officer told Seven Days that he quit soon afterward, citing the unneeded stress.
An anonymous donor eventually paid the $24 fee required to license Languerand’s dog. The motivation, according to Town Clerk Belinda Harris Clegg, was to keep Languerand out of trouble.
Into the Storm
The customer at the takeout window was screaming, but the Manhattan Pizza & Pub employees couldn’t see his face. They saw only the cartoonish grin and blushed cheeks of Guy Fawkes, the English revolutionary icon whose stylized visage has become a protest symbol.
The masked man carried a big sign, but instead of asserting that “Black Lives Matter,” like the other protesters who were marching down Burlington’s Church Street that August 2020 day, his proclaimed something about saving the children. “The war has begun,” a co-owner remembered the man yelling. He vowed to return.
The co-owner, who asked not to be named in this story due to fears of online harassment, had no idea what the man was talking about. He shut the glass window and didn’t give it any more thought — until the next morning, when he opened the pizzeria’s Instagram and Twitter pages and saw messages from numerous accounts.
Manhattan’s “has some serious explaining to do.”
“Vermont will never be a safe haven for pedophiles!”
“Fear the storm.”
It’s not clear when Languerand got into QAnon, but by the summer of 2020, he was fully immersed. His vision extended beyond the 2016 rumor advanced by the conspiracy theory group that Comet Ping Pong, a Washington, D.C., pizzeria, was trafficking children for sexual abuse. He identified several pizza shops in Vermont that he believed could be part of a worldwide ring, including Manhattan’s, and posted about them online.
- Courtesy of U.S. Department of Justice
- Languerand in a Guy Fawkes mask from his online posts
In a series of photos and videos, he posed with rifles in the same Guy Fawkes mask he’d worn to the restaurant. In one of them, he ranted at length about the Burlington pizzeria, the manager recalled, though the video, like most of Languerand’s social media, is no longer accessible.
Through some online sleuthing, Manhattan’s owners identified Languerand as the harasser. Worried that he would make good on his promise to return, they contacted the Burlington Police Department.
The department drew up a safety plan, but the business didn’t have many good options. Languerand’s statements weren’t criminal, and Manhattan’s owners were concerned about provoking Languerand further, police records indicate. Manhattan’s blocked and reported its online harassers, hoping to stem a viral tide.
In an email to Seven Days, Languerand said he didn’t intend to threaten the pizza pub. “What I did was gather and present coherent and clearly stated evidence that suggested the existence of something unspeakable,” he said.
Languerand wasn’t just one man with a grand delusion. He was part of a movement that was catching fire. He’d watched videos and documentaries online about child sex trafficking and the global “cabal,” he said in recent written correspondence with Seven Days. He also followed teachings of the “QAnon Shaman,” Jake Angeli, who would later become the face of the most unmoored wing of the January 6 cohort by sitting shirtless in the chambers of Congress in buffalo horns and a coyote pelt.
But most of the people pushing pedophile conspiracies in the summer of 2020 didn’t even realize that the theories were part of QAnon. The movement gained mainstream traction through a new iteration of Pizzagate that claimed the online furniture retailer Wayfair was selling child sex slaves inside its cabinets. Millions posted about the Wayfair theory on social media, leading to hunts for supposedly missing children who happened to share the same name as a designer armoire.
Languerand even tried to convince local authorities to join the cause. A Morristown official received a “long, strange, and somewhat disturbing” voicemail from Languerand about what the Q adherent had deemed “pedo symbols” in downtown Morrisville. Languerand also emailed a map of these symbols to a local police sergeant, alleging that a mural on concrete barriers outside a pizza shop matched that from a 2007 FBI bulletin about pedophilia codes. He implored the sergeant to “show America” why it needs police and to “be on the right side of history.”
Cpl. Scott McCullough tried to reason with Languerand, replying that the colorful barriers “were simply an attempt by community members to brighten up Lower Main Street during a difficult time for local businesses.”
Three days before Languerand showed up at Manhattan’s on August 22, 2020, a reporter asked Trump at a press conference about the QAnon movement. The president said he didn’t know much about the group but appreciated its support.
Languerand and his new girlfriend, Michele L’Esperance, were listening. L’Esperance posted the video clip of Trump’s response to her Instagram, one of several posts she made at the time about QAnon.
Trump’s behavior around the election soon provided a new focal point for Languerand. He talked to friends about QAnon, as well as child sex trafficking and his belief that Trump would stop it. “He really wanted Trump to win,” said Tyler Earle, a friend of Languerand’s who worked with him at a masonry company. “I actually went and voted just because he was on me about it.”
It was the first time Earle had ever cast a ballot.
By November, Languerand was laid off from his seasonal job at the masonry company. His grandparents had moved to South Carolina. He was living in his trailer with no car or television. The oil furnace wasn’t working right, his grandparents wrote in court papers. And he’d swallowed Trump’s lie that his electoral defeat was illegitimate.
On December 19, Trump tweeted a promise of a “big protest” in D.C. on January 6. Four days after the tweet, Languerand put on a QAnon sweatshirt, a cross necklace and a Trump beanie, then filmed a 55-second video addressed to “Mr. President.”
“We’re picking up your messages, and we’re listening,” Languerand said. “We’re ready to do this thing. We’re ready to fight to defend our republic against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
“So let’s do it, let’s go for gold,” he finished, flashing a smile. He pumped his fist. The video remained accessible on Twitter while this story was reported; it had been viewed 24 times.
Languerand invited his girlfriend and his grandmother to join him at the rally in D.C. Both declined. His uncle Charlie Killian III, who was also Languerand’s neighbor, said he tried to talk his nephew out of attending. Killian sympathized with his grievances but said he should “let it go.”
“'This is going to turn into a nightmare,'” Killian said he told Languerand. “'You’re going to be getting in the middle of something you have no business being involved in.'”
Instead, according to Killian, Languerand hitched a ride to D.C. with someone from Chittenden County whom he’d met online.
- Courtesy of U.S. Department of Justice
- Languerand at the Capitol with his Pepe the Frog flag on January 6
Languerand seemed to be enjoying himself for most of the afternoon, videos and photos from the day show.
He stood on the upper west terrace, with the National Mall in the distance, and basked in the swell of like-minded people, a manifestation of the online community in which he’d immersed himself for months. He waved a flag emblazoned with Pepe the Frog, an alt-right meme mascot, and posed for smiling selfies with fellow marchers.
Meanwhile, the day’s most violent confrontation unfolded below him. Rioters amassed on the lower west terrace streamed into a ceremonial tunnel best known as a backdrop to presidential inaugurations, where they were met by dozens of D.C. and Capitol police officers making a final stand. An intense three-hour clash ensued; officers held the line as waves of rioters jabbed them with flagpoles and doused them with pepper spray.
Two officers were eventually dragged to the ground and beaten with an American flag. Another was crushed in a door. Rosanne Boyland, a 34-year-old woman from Georgia who, like Languerand, had become obsessed with QAnon, died in the struggle. Other rioters struck the officers who were trying to give her aid.
For several hours, Languerand watched the combat from above, describing it as a “straight-up fight” in a video that prosecutors later obtained. Then, just before 5 p.m., he joined in.
For 10 fateful minutes, Languerand cycled through the ranks, hurling one object before retreating down the stairs to find another. Video taken by a freelance photographer shows Languerand bouncing on his feet like a boxer as he waited for his turn to rejoin the front line.
During one particularly chaotic sequence, a man wearing an American flag cape slammed into the line of riot shields like a battering ram, followed closely by a man in a pinstripe tracksuit swinging the leg of a chair. Languerand raced up the stairs and threw a long, skinny object that ricocheted off a riot shield. He retreated just as a man behind him launched a furled American flag into the tunnel, like a javelin.
The battle continued until the combat-fatigue-clad Virginia State Police trooper emerged from the tunnel and scanned the crowd with his rifle. Tear gas descended, the crowd dispersed and, by 6 p.m., the nation’s capital was under curfew.
Languerand, who made it back to Vermont unscathed, wasted no time boasting about his participation in the riot. In a series of posts and comments on Instagram, he wrote that he “never made it inside” but “got some good shots in.”
“We were straight up fighting these riot cops in the doorway of the capital [sic] building,” he wrote. “It was fucking insane.”
Languerand’s accounts differed from those of some other Vermonters in D.C. that day, including the leaders of a well-publicized bus trip from South Burlington. That group swiftly latched on to a theory that antifa, a loose network of anti-fascist activists, had stirred up the crowd.
Antifa was not to blame for the storming, Languerand wrote: “We did that. And it felt good.” He would later state that he was carrying a gun that day and would celebrate the violence that took place, posting a series of comments that suggested he was more committed to the revolutionary spirit than ever.
“The last American Revolution was fought with muskets,” he wrote the day after the riot. “We didn’t peacefully protest. We didn’t ask for permission. We picked up rifles and shot the people who were oppressing us. Violence isn’t always the answer but in the face of tyranny violence may be the only answer.”
Languerand’s posts would eventually come back to haunt him. Two days after the riot, he posted a selfie from the Capitol on Reddit in a post titled, “How many other wonderful Vermont Patriots were at the legendary and historical DC Storm?” FBI investigators would later receive a tip from someone linking to the post, sparking a weeks-long investigation.
The high of January 6 wouldn’t last. A week after the riot, Languerand’s Instagram account was deleted as part of a purge of election misinformation across social media platforms. Then, on January 20, 2021, President Joe Biden was inaugurated, walking out of the same tunnel where Languerand had joined the fray.
The inauguration was a disappointment for many QAnon followers, who believed their leaders' prediction that Trump would retain the presidency. Languerand tried to keep the faith. “JUDGEMENT [sic] DAY IS COMING,” he tweeted on the day after the inauguration. “YOU HAVE MORE THAN YOU KNOW.”
At the same time, Languerand faced a more immediate problem. It was the dead of winter, and his trailer didn't have adequate heat. His grandfather came to Vermont and drove Languerand to their house in South Carolina.
There, Languerand got a job doing construction and proved an honest and reliable worker, according to his new boss. But it didn’t last. At 6 a.m. on April 15, as Languerand was getting ready for work, federal agents burst into his grandparents' house and placed him under arrest.
Of the thousands of people who stormed the Capitol, some 760 have been arrested. Most face misdemeanor charges. Only a dozen or so have received prison sentences longer than 60 days, though the investigation is ongoing and most cases are still winding through the courts.
The charges against Languerand — seven counts, including assaulting a law enforcement officer with a dangerous weapon — were among the most serious to date. After Languerand was arrested last April, prosecutors persuaded a magistrate judge that he should be detained pending trial.
- Courtesy of U.S. Department of Justice
- A page from Languerand's journal
They emphasized Languerand’s social media posts, combined with his drug use and past conduct in Vermont, to argue that he ought to be locked up. When agents searched his bedroom in South Carolina and trailer in Wolcott, they found plenty of QAnon “memorabilia.” Languerand brought his guns with him to South Carolina, along with the tactical vest with a QAnon patch on it. Agents also seized undated journals with messages in code and militaristic language about Washington, D.C.
In November, the feds agreed to drop six charges in exchange for Languerand’s guilty plea to the felony of assaulting an officer with a deadly weapon. Federal sentencing guidelines called for between 46 and 57 months in prison.
On January 26, Languerand appeared in a wood-paneled courtroom at the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse in Washington, D.C., across the street from the Capitol. The gallery was mostly empty; Languerand’s only supporters were his grandparents, Susan and Charles Killian, who’d driven up from South Carolina to testify.
The government asked Judge John D. Bates to sentence Languerand to 51 months, which would have been the second-longest prison term to result from the Capitol riot investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Juman conceded that Languerand did not personally injure anyone on January 6. But he described Languerand as a man with a track record of violent and threatening conduct who chose to join the assault, bragged afterward and said he looked forward to more violence.
The prosecutor then pointed to Languerand’s own words to justify a lengthy sentence. Languerand had submitted a handwritten letter to the judge in advance of the hearing explaining his actions that day. In contrast to the scribblings that the government found in his journals, the letter was clear and cogent.
Trump’s “movement,” Languerand wrote, “provided me a feeling of belonging to something bigger than myself that I had long been seeking.”
QAnon adherents like him had been encouraged by the Trump family, Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell and others, but Languerand wrote that “I now feel lied to and betrayed by the leaders who I respected.” Still, he considered himself a “patriot” and said his fellow patriots “only want what is best for their families and neighbors.”
- Courtesy of U.S. Department of Justice
- An excerpt from Languerand's letter to Judge Bates
Juman homed in on Languerand’s insistence that he is a “patriot” as evidence that he lacked remorse for his actions.
“It is not patriotism to try to overturn a democratic election,” the prosecutor said. “People who engage in terrorism always believe they’re right.”
Languerand’s court-appointed attorney, William Welch III, asked for a prison sentence of just one year and one day. He echoed the same arguments that many other rioters have used to try to avoid lengthy stretches behind bars: Languerand was following powerful people who misguided him. He hadn’t planned to use violence to stop the election certification but was caught in the heat of the moment on January 6.
Such reasoning has not proven particularly persuasive to federal judges. Languerand’s idol, the QAnon Shaman Angeli, received a 41-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to obstructing a Congressional proceeding, despite disavowing Trump in the days after the riot and offering to testify at his impeachment.
So Welch emphasized Languerand’s traumatic childhood and the role it may have played in leading him astray. He compared QAnon and Trump’s “Stop the Steal” effort to the gangs that target vulnerable young men as recruits. His client, Welch said, wants psychological treatment and therapy, and he would have a better chance of turning his life around while living with his grandparents than in federal prison.
“I ask the court to consider how we might begin to heal,” Welch said.
Then it was Languerand’s turn to address the judge. Dressed in a blue Northern Neck Regional Jail jumpsuit, he had grown out his wavy, dark hair and appeared focused. He looked unrecognizable from the man in his riot selfies.
“I am deeply regretful and remorseful about my actions,” he began.
Standing at a lectern, Languerand said he poorly represented his “community” that day. The QAnon movement was not intended to be violent, he said, referencing what he said were the QAnon Shaman’s teachings about nonviolence, which made him “feel like I had done the wrong thing.”
“I am a patriot. I do love this country. I’m not a terrorist,” he said.
Addressing Languerand directly, Judge Bates said he was moved by the “difficult circumstances” the Vermonter had faced growing up. Bates wasn’t entirely sure what to make of Languerand’s contrition, however. The letter he’d submitted contained a “mix of excuses and remorse,” the judge said. He decided to send Languerand away for 44 months, plus credit for the nine months he had been detained. The sentence was slightly shorter than the 46-month minimum suggested by federal guidelines.
Languerand’s actions on January 6 were “quite frankly, deplorable,” the judge said. The rioters, he emphasized, were not patriots.
“The patriots were the police officers who were defending the Capitol building and our democratic values,” Bates said.
As Languerand sat in prison awaiting his day in court, his case caught the attention of Michigan resident John Blehm.
The swing-state businessman, whose company creates diner place mats, didn’t share Languerand’s belief that the election was stolen. But he said he did believe that Languerand and other Capitol rioters who sought to overturn the election were being treated worse than the Black Lives Matter demonstrators who “burned and looted” during nationwide protests the previous year.
Blehm was so disgusted that the government would lock up certain rioters before they’d been convicted that he’d come to regret not attending the January 6 event himself.
So when Blehm came across a website for detained rioters, he felt compelled to support them. He and his wife donated to many of their legal defenses, he said by phone last week. That included $33 for Languerand.
The Blehms were among nearly 30 people who sent a combined $3,110 to Languerand prior to his sentencing through a Christian crowdfunding website known as GiveSendGo. Languerand’s girlfriend, L’Esperance, set up the page last fall. Languerand hoped to use the money to find a new attorney, a description on the page said, as well as a defamation lawyer who could combat portrayals of him as a white nationalist or neo-Nazi.
The donation page showed that, at the same time Languerand was expressing remorse inside the courthouse, he was also tapping into a nationwide network of so-called patriots that has continued to flourish in the year since January 6.
While the majority of Americans denounce that day at the Capitol, many have perpetuated an alternative history, with support from Republican leaders. Research shows that roughly 70 percent of GOP voters say they believe Trump’s lie that the election was fraudulent, and about four in 10 Republicans say that violence is justified to overturn the result.
At the center of this radical Venn diagram are an estimated 21 million people, according to a recent survey from a University of Chicago research center on national security. They hail from zip codes across the country, including largely liberal and urban areas, suggesting that the beliefs that fueled the insurrectionists are not confined to the fringes.
Roughly half of these 21 million people still believe in some form of the QAnon conspiracy, while many are channeling their anger toward a fresh slate of grievances that largely revolve around COVID-19. They are peddling conspiracy theories about the virus, defying mask mandates and organizing against the vaccines. Others are rewriting the narrative of the Capitol riot, casting perpetrators such as Languerand as political prisoners.
That particular message has found a champion in one of America’s most influential voices: Tucker Carlson, a Fox News personality who hosts the nation’s top-rated cable news show. A recent three-part documentary produced by Carlson embraced conspiracy theories about the insurrection, suggesting that violent left-wing groups and even the FBI had carried out the attack under a “false flag” operation meant to discredit Trump supporters.
Perhaps most impacted by the revisionist history of January 6 are those now being held to account for its mayhem. While they meet stiff sentences from outraged judges, their right-wing echo chamber provides a feedback loop that downplays their actions and props them up as martyrs.
That echo chamber includes former president Trump himself. At a rally in Texas on Saturday night, Trump floated the idea of pardons for January 6 rioters if he’s reelected in 2024.
Donald Trump: "If I run and if I win, we will treat those people from January 6 fairly and if it requires pardons we will give them pardons because they are being treated so unfairly." pic.twitter.com/fDggNoNwsi— The Hill (@thehill) January 30, 2022
“We’ll treat them fairly,” Trump told the crowd in Conroe. “And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons, because they are being treated so unfairly.”
Over the next three years, Languerand must try to make sense of his QAnon worldview in light of the false promises that helped land him in prison. During that time, he’ll be away from L’Esperance, who said in a statement that Languerand “has learned and grown greatly from his mistakes, and wants to do, and be, better.” And, as his attorney pointed out at Languerand’s sentencing, his 75-year-old grandparents — his main support system — may not have many years of good health left.
In his letter to the judge, Languerand expressed a desire to start a business and a family. He swore off politics and said he intends to lead a “simple and peaceful life.”
His online community received a different message.
Updates about his case have showed up on an account with a variation of Languerand’s old handle that appears to be run by someone in contact with him. The latest post came just three days before his sentencing with a message attributed to Languerand claiming that he had received an “absolutely massive” stack of letters from people supportive of his cause. He said he is currently working on a book and a news show, and he encouraged people to look out for this story in Seven Days. The post, alongside others of QAnon and anti-vax memes, includes various right-wing hashtags, such as “#trumpwon,” “#sleepyjoe” and “#fuckbiden2020.”
“I have a long and difficult road ahead of me,” he wrote, “but I will not let it stop me from doing all I can to advocate for the truth.”
On the anniversary of January 6, Languerand said in an email to Seven Days, he and “the guys” at jail watched cable news together. They flipped between Fox News and CNN, noting the stark differences in the way hosts on each station talked about the riot. Languerand said he saw in Carlson an important advocate for him and other patriots, and he encouraged others to watch his show, as well.
“This country has tens of millions of people who think like I do and believe like I do,” he wrote, “and those people take this stuff very seriously.”