On a Jan. 7 episode of MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” the anchor condemned some of the antisemitic fashion choices seen on the National Mall the day rioters stormed the Capitol, including the infamous “Camp Auschwitz” hoodie. But one of the images he used, and that was widely shared on Twitter, was not from that day.
“6MWE means ‘6 million were not enough,’ and you have to be very special to wear that on your shirt when you’re invading the Capitol building,” O’Donnell said, while showing an image of a man in a balaclava and a black T-shirt of an eagle, carrying a fasces, below the abbreviation.
“That means you believe that 6 million Jews exterminated in the Nazi death camps, including Auschwitz, was not enough,” O’Donnell said.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, that is indeed what the text means. They explained it on their website using the same image — on Dec. 24, 2020.
The ADL wrote the photo was taken at an earlier gathering of Proud Boys in Washington, D.C., and previously disseminated on social media. The image popped up again on Twitter in the aftermath of the Capitol siege on the Twitter feed of writer Roya Hakakian.
Yesterday some Proud Boys wore shirts with 6MWE insignia. It means 6 million (Jews) wasn’t enough. A reminder that if democracy becomes vulnerable, genocidal forces in the wings are ready to rise. Yes, even in America. #CapitolRiotspic.twitter.com/TYdhkXvbY3— Roya Hakakian (@RoyaTheWriter) January 7, 2021
Hakakian’s tweet, which included the image in a collage of photos from Dec. 7, was retweeted more than 16,000 times and quote tweeted more than 3,000 times. O’Donnell retweeted it from another user’s quote tweet before his show.
Laura Adkins, the opinion editor at JTA, tagged O’Donnell and MSNBC, alerting him to the misinformation.
Guys. We HAVE to be SO careful with this. @msnbc, the photo @Lawrence had on his show and used to make a very important, true point about the rioters is from December.
Bad actors look for any opportunity to call us fake news and we can’t give it to them by not checking photos. https://t.co/RvSgcjuDin— Laura E. Adkins (@Laura_E_Adkins) January 8, 2021
“I assume you don’t check your own twitter mentions,” Adkins wrote to O’Donnell, “but it was heartbreaking to hear such true words and realize that anyone hoping to undermine them could use the fact it was an old image to try and do so.”
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture reporter. He can be reached at Grisar@Forward.com.