Fox NewsPete Hegseth drew condemnation Thursday for springing to the defense of the violent mob of Donald Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol, suggesting they were not raging conspiracy theorists but people who “love freedom” and free markets.

Hegseth, appearing on Thursday morning’s broadcast of “Fox & Friends,” was asked by host Brian Kilmeade what’s next for the MAGA movement if “this is the calling card they are leaving us with.”

“Well, the movement is obviously defined by far more than one day,” responded Hegseth, who has repeatedly lavished praise on the president during Trump’s time in office.

He then quoted a person he said he talked to at Trump’s pre-riot rally: “I’m a born-again American. I have been reawoken to the reality of what the left has done to my country. This is not Donald Trump only. This is what he has exposed.”

Check out the video here:

Fox host defends insurrection: "The movement is obviously defined by far more than one day. If anything, one person I talked to in the crowd gave voice to how these people feel. They say 'I'm a born-again American' … they see what the anti-American Left has done to our country"

— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) January 7, 2021

Hegseth said the pro-Trump crowd was “not conspiracy theorists motivated just by lies.”

“That’s a bunch of nonsense that people want to tell us,” he claimed.

Instead, Hegseth argued, “these are people that understand first principles, they love freedom and they love free markets and they see exactly what the anti-American left has done to America.”

“I wasn’t surprised by what happened yesterday,” Hegseth added. “I’m not saying it’s OK, but I wasn’t shocked. I recognize that people feel like the entire system is rigged against them.”

Pete Hegseth, one of the biggest MAGA guys on Fox, says "this is the result of frustration that a lot of people feel. I frankly wasn't surprised. I am not saying it is okay, I'm not saying all those things, but images didn't shock me." Listen to him channel the rioters…

— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) January 7, 2021

Twitter users were disgusted by Hegseth’s apparent defense of the mob:

Pete Hegseth published a book last year called American Crusader that literally calls for the “annihilation” of the Left. He has helped build the ideology from which Trump loyalists’ anger manifests.

— Lauren Katzenberg (@Lkatzenberg) January 7, 2021

Yes. @PeteHegseth you are saying it’s OK. You are encouraging them and have all along. This is the direct culmination of constant lies and support for the worst of our nation. The images of our flag being replaced by a Trump one should shock a veteran.

— Fred Wellman (@FPWellman) January 7, 2021

Pete Hegseth is on Fox news right now JUSTIFYING the violent attempted COUP and Fox is letting him do it!!! @PeteHegseth @FoxNews

— Sam Malone (@Sammalone3000) January 7, 2021

I look forward to @PeteHegseth publicly endorsing kneeling at NFL games.

— Bradley P. Moss (@BradMossEsq) January 7, 2021

Nice of Pete Hegseth to let us know he's pro-insurrection.

— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) January 7, 2021 RELATED… RNC Official Hit With The Cold, Hard Truth After Decrying 'Domestic Terrorism' Seth Meyers Explains Why Trump Must Be ‘Immediately Removed From Office’ Trump’s ‘Greatest First Term’ In History Boast Gets A Scathing Fact Check On Twitter HuffPost Join the HuffPost community – it’s free! Access comments, members-only events, HuffPost Insider and more Join HuffPost Today! No thanks. HuffPost Important conversations are happening now. Add your voice! Join HuffPost Today! Download Calling all HuffPost superfans! Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost’s next chapter Join HuffPost

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