Two separate groups of media organizations sent letters to Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-California) over the weekend, demanding access to thousands of hours of surveillance footage from the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, which have so far only been released to Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
McCarthy gave Carlson access to more than 44,000 hours of security footage from the January 6 attack earlier this month. Carlson has repeatedly pushed unfounded conspiracy theories about the attack during his primetime program, and has described the attempt by hundreds of loyalists to former President Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 election as “vandalism” and a “forgettably minor outbreak” of violence.
Several media organizations have written to McCarthy demanding access to the footage. McCarthy, who faced opposition from extremist members of his party in his bid to become speaker, had promised far right Rep. Matt Gaetz (R) that he would release the footage in exchange for his support. But Gaetz never said the footage had to be released to Carlson specifically — instead, the move was likely an attempt by McCarthy to win favor among the furthest right members of his party, especially because Carlson has been a vocal critic of McCarthy in the past.
One letter, written on behalf of CBS News, ABC News, CNN, Politico, ProPublica, Axios, and others, was sent to McCarthy on Friday.
“Without full public access to the complete historical record, there is concern that an ideologically-based narrative of an already polarizing event will take hold in the public consciousness, with destabilizing risks to the legitimacy of Congress, the Capitol Police, and the various federal investigations and prosecutions of January 6 crimes,” read the letter, which was written by attorney Charles Tobin.
A second letter, written by attorney Laura Handman on behalf of NBC News, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and others, was also sent to McCarthy on Friday. “There is no basis for further delaying granting this access — to these News Organizations or any other media outlets that make similar requests,” that letter read.
McCarthy has not yet responded to either letter, Axios reported on Saturday.
McCarthy’s announcement that he was transferring the footage to Carlson last week was widely condemned, with many noting that the move presented serious security risks.
“What security precautions were taken to keep this from becoming a roadmap for 2024 insurrection?” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland), a member of the House select committee that investigated the January 6 attack, said last week.
“It’s hard to overstate the potential security risks if this material were to be used irresponsibly,” said former chair of the January 6 committee Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi).
Others noted that McCarthy’s decision to give Carlson the footage was likely strategic.
“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,” said journalist Judd Legum.
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