WASHINGTON — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is defending his decision to give Fox News’ Tucker Carlson “exclusive” access to security footage of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, despite the conservative commentator’s work raising false claims and conspiracy theories about the insurgency of 2021 for the election of Joe Biden. .
McCarthy promised on Tuesday to eventually make about 42,000 hours of sensitive Capitol Police security footage available to the general public “as soon as possible,” but made it clear that the Fox News commentator had the first remarks. McCarthy, a Republican, also supports providing access to some of the nearly 1,000 defendants being prosecuted for their role in the siege.
Five people died in the January 6, 2021 attack and its aftermath, after then-President Donald Trump encouraged a crowd of supporters to “fight like hell” as Congress counted state election results.
“I don’t care what side of the issue you’re on. That’s why I think if you let it all out to the American public, you can see the truth. Look exactly what happened that day,” McCarthy told reporters on Capitol Hill.
“Have you ever had exclusivity? Because I see it on your networks all the time. So we have an exclusive, then I’ll give it to the whole country,” McCarthy said.
The speaker’s decision to release the mountains of police security footage has sparked a firestorm on Capitol Hill over how the images could potentially be used as a political tool to rewrite the story of what happened that deadly day. Fox News is facing new scrutiny in a separate court case for airing false claims about the 2020 election Trump lost to Biden.
It also raises new concerns about sensitive security operations on Capitol Hill. While footage of the Jan. 6 riot has already been widely circulated as part of public hearings last summer by the House committee that investigated the attack — including from police body cameras, documentarians such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s daughter who filmed secret locations, even the rioters themselves — McCarthy has nearly 42,000 hours of footage, three times as much as originally shown, from cameras located in every nook and cranny of the Capitol complex.
“We are deeply concerned that the release of video related to the violent riot on January 6th will reveal some security details that could create some challenges for the safety and well-being of everyone on the Capitol complex,” said Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, DN. .Y.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, former chairman of the House committee on Jan. 6, said the committee went through an arduous process to work closely with the U.S. Capitol Police to review and ultimately release authorized portions of the surveillance video as part of of its public hearings.
“I support a process, if this is true transparency, that will not compromise the integrity or security of the Capitol,” the Mississippi Democrat said.
When McCarthy told other Republicans behind closed doors of his decision Tuesday, he was met with applause, according to a person familiar with the private conference meeting but not authorized to speak about it publicly.
The speaker has had a rocky relationship with Carlson, who has been critical of McCarthy’s leadership, but the influential Fox News commentator eventually stepped aside when the California Republican battled to become House speaker in a late party vote earlier this year. He was credited with helping boost McCarthy’s job.
McCarthy insisted he was taking steps to ensure Capitol security would not be compromised by the release, but declined to elaborate – only to say Carlson had made it clear to the speaker’s team that he did not want to show “exit routes” that used by legislators or others.
But the Republican leader has made clear that he is working to set the record straight as he sees it, and has repeatedly complained that other media outlets, including CNN, were already granted exclusive access to videos last year when Democrats held the majority in the House.
McCarthy also suggested it was unfair that the Jan. 6 committee, which was disbanded once Republicans took control of the House, released security footage during the uprising of former Vice President Mike Pence fleeing for safety, as well as staff of the GOP leader trying to secure office.
“It was troubling to me that the January 6th panel would show the vice president’s exit strategy,” McCarthy told reporters Tuesday. “What I thought would be best is if the whole world and country could see what happened.”
Carlson said his producers had been at the Capitol since early February, looking at the video after receiving “unfettered access” from McCarthy.
The file is a potential treasure trove of the inner workings of the Capitol and includes the hiding places of lawmakers as well as the evacuation routes Capitol Police used to get leadership and rank and file members to safety. It also features long moments of empty corridors where nothing happens.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said releasing the Carlson tapes was “abhorrent” and said he would not agree to release them to other media outlets. “Safety has to be the number one concern,” Schumer said.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell did not directly comment on McCarthy’s move, saying his only concern is Capitol security.
Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.
(tags For Translation) 2021 United States Capitol Riots