Elon Musk’s latest project: Defending the QAnon Shaman and his role on Jan. 6

With Tesla’s competition(Opens in a new tab) heating up, an impossible-to-meet Neuralink deadline, and tanking(Opens in a new tab) Twitter revenues, one would think that Elon Musk has his hands full. But, fresh off publicly demeaning a well-respected former employee and questioning the disability that the worker has, Musk has taken up a new project.

For the past day, the billionaire CEO of Tesla and SpaceX has taken to Twitter to defend Jacob Chansley, better known as the QAnon Shaman. Chansely is one of the more recognizable figures from the storming of the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, where he and thousands of others attempted to overturn the presidential election results and declare Donald Trump the winner.

“Free Jacob Chansley,” Musk tweeted(Opens in a new tab) on Friday about the right-wing conspiracy theorist who joined the pro-Trump mob in breaking into the Capitol building. 


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Musk included a video in his post showing Chansley in his now-infamous QAnon Shaman getup including face paint, horned helmet, and fur cap. In the video, Chansley reads out a Trump tweet from the end of the day on Jan. 6 telling his supporters to leave the Capitol and go home. Chansley announces that he’s going to abide by Trump’s request in the clip.

In another tweet, Musk shared an additional clip aired on Fox New’s Tucker Carlson Tonight that shows Chansley following Capitol police as he enters the Senate floor.

“Chansley got 4 years in prison for a non-violent, police-escorted tour!?” Musk said(Opens in a new tab) in the tweet, repeating the same language that the Fox News host used in the clip. “Dave Chapelle was violently assaulted on stage by a guy with a knife. That guy got a $3000 fine & no prison time.”

Musk continued his defense of Chansley in replies to other Twitter users.

“Chansley was falsely portrayed in the media as a violent criminal who tried to overthrow the state and who urged others to commit violence,” tweeted(Opens in a new tab) Musk. “But here he is urging people to be peaceful and go home.”

“The Capitol Police literally opened the Senate chamber door for him on camera!” Musk said in another reply(Opens in a new tab) about how the video was being fact-checked on Instagram. “But who are you going to believe, Instagram “fact-checkers” or your own lying eyes!?”

Musk’s recent statements about Jan. 6 come after Republicans, who now control the House, provided hours of previously unseen security camera footage to Fox News’ Carlson. The host has been running multiple segments this past week showing cherry-picked footage of moments where the pro-Trump mob, who broke down doors and windows to enter the Capitol building that day, were shuffling around inside the building and not actively acting out violently in the moment.


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However, like Carlson, Musk has misportrayed what went on to his audience of more than 130 million Twitter followers.

Much of what is seen in this footage has previously been portrayed via clips taken from those inside the building and has been publicly available. In the month following the Jan. 6 insurrection, Capitol police investigated(Opens in a new tab) dozens of officers due to the footage being shared on social media showing cops escorting and aiding the rioters.

While Chansley’s eccentric costume certainly shaped the media coverage around him, he was one of the first to enter the building that day. In a video(Opens in a new tab) shown at his trial, Chansley can be seen with the group breaking windows at the Capitol building. He is also visible entering through one of the doors that were broken into. In addition, Chansley left behind a “threatening(Opens in a new tab)” letter for then-Vice President Mike Pence at the Capitol building.

As for the “unseen” video of Chansley telling rioters to go home at the behest of Trump, that too has long been accessible online. In fact, just one month after the storming of the Capitol, Rep. Diana DeGette entered footage(Opens in a new tab) of Chansley’s reading of Trump’s tweet into the Congressional record in order to show that then-President Trump was able to control the mob and could have ended the riots earlier if he so chose to.

Additional footage(Opens in a new tab) of Chansley reciting Trump’s tweet was played last summer at a Jan. 6 hearing. This moment was also captured in the final report(Opens in a new tab) from the Jan. 6 Committee.

Chansley eventually plead guilty in November 2021 to “one count of obstruction of an official proceeding,” a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. The man known as the QAnon Shaman is currently serving a 41-month sentence. Also, contrary to Musk’s claim, the man who attempted to stab comedian Dave Chappelle was sentenced(Opens in a new tab) to jail for 270 days.

Musk did seem to walk back his earlier, more affirmative statements about the QAnon Shaman’s innocence in his last tweet late Friday.

“Yeah, I agree he should get non-zero punishment, but four years in prison is too much for a non-violent crime,” Musk tweeted(Opens in a new tab) in response to another user.

But as of Saturday morning, Musk was back on board with his original statements, even mockingly referencing an earlier interview from Chansley where he claimed he stopped his fellow Trump supporters from stealing muffins in the Capitol building.

“Let him out,” said(Opens in a new tab) Musk. “This shaman/muffin-guardian is obviously not going to overthrow the state.”

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