Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-California) has given far right Fox News host Tucker Carlson access to extensive surveillance footage from the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Some journalists and elected Democrats have lambasted the move as dangerous, as the tens of thousands of hours of video could compromise the security of the Capitol and be manipulated to fuel right-wing propaganda.
Carlson is likely to use the footage to downplay the January 6 attack — which was instigated by former President Donald Trump to disrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election race following his defeat. On his Fox News program and elsewhere, Carlson has downplayed the attacks as simple “vandalism” and a “forgettably minor outbreak” of violence, and has frequently questioned official accounts of what happened at the Capitol that day.
The far right firebrand has also, in the past, wrongly depicted the attack as a “false flag” event, put on or instigated by supporters of Democrats in order to discredit Trump loyalists. Such claims, made by Carlson and other far right figures contradict evidence that confirms the attack sought to disrupt the constitutional process.
Footage from the surveillance tapes that McCarthy gave to Carlson is expected to air on Fox News in the next few weeks.
McCarthy, who had long promised to release the surveillance footage, has framed the move as an act of transparency and openness with the American people. Notably, however, it appears that the House speaker has only shared the footage with Carlson, a news anchor who regularly lies about election fraud in 2020, despite his own doubts about Trump’s claims on the matter.
Carlson has repeatedly called for the footage to be made public, telling Axios, which was first to report on the handover of surveillance from the House speaker to the Fox News personality, that there was “never any legitimate reason for this footage to remain secret.”
Members of the now-disbanded House select committee investigating the Capitol attack worry that the surveillance footage that Carlson now has in his possession could make the building less secure.
“What security precautions were taken to keep this from becoming a roadmap for 2024 insurrection?” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) asked on Twitter, questioning also why the footage wasn’t being made “available to all media & [the] public.”
“Smell the MAGA propaganda coming,” Raskin added.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), who chaired the January 6 committee, also raised concerns over McCarthy’s release of the footage. “It’s hard to overstate the potential security risks if this material were to be used irresponsibly,” Thompson said in a statement.
Other commentators warned that granting Carlson access to the footage will only result in the Fox News host using it for nefarious reasons.
“This is outrageous,” tweeted former Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times editor Mark Jacob. “[The] Jan. 6 footage is the people’s property, not Kevin McCarthy’s. And Tucker Carlson is a proven liar who will no doubt abuse this material to lie further.”
“The only reason to give the footage exclusively to Tucker is McCarthy knows the footage will only reinforce the GOP’s preferred narrative if it is selectively released by an unrepentant manipulator and liar,” opined journalist Judd Legum, founder of Popular Information.
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