Two days after news broke that Fox News host Tucker Carlson received access to tens of thousands of hours of January 6 U.S. Capitol surveillance footage, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) opened up about why he made the disclosure.
“I promised,” McCarthy told The New York Times on Wednesday. “I was asked in the press about these tapes, and I said they do belong to the American public. I think sunshine lets everybody make their own judgment.”
The speaker said last month he was looking to release the tapes because of the “politicization” he believed had been fostered by former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the January 6 Committee, which focused heavily on former President Donald Trump in its investigation and final report, but McCarthy did not divulge how he was planning to do so.
Axios first reported on Monday that McCarthy shared with Carlson 41,000 hours of surveillance footage from January 6, 2021, the day a crowd of people entered the U.S. Capitol, disrupting lawmakers who were meeting to certify President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. A Fox News spokesperson told The Daily Wire that the report from Axios was accurate.
Hours later, Carlson said on his show, “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” that his team has been granted what they believe to be “unfettered” access to the tapes, and he plans to start sharing what they have found next week.
“Some of our smartest producers have been there looking at this stuff, trying to figure out what it means and how it contradicts, or not, the story that we’ve been told for more than two years,” Carlson said. “We think already that in some ways it does contradict that story.”
Tucker Carlson Announces That His Show Has Been Granted Access To 44k Hours Of Footage From January 6th
"We believe that access is unfettered. We believe we have secured the right to see whatever we want to see."
"We're going to spend the rest of this week taking a look at it,… https://t.co/sK7691S0n8 pic.twitter.com/GnPvtbENg5
— The Columbia Bugle 🇺🇸 (@ColumbiaBugle) February 21, 2023
Some Republicans cheered the move, including Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), who had opposed McCarthy’s bid for speaker earlier this year. “Thank you [McCarthy] for following through on this!” she tweeted Monday. “The public deserves to see everything that was hidden.”
But silence from McCarthy’s camp up until now gave Democrats room to issue myriad alarming statements about the nature of the disclosure and risks to Capitol security without any pushback from the source.
In a letter to House Democrats on Tuesday, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said his team is “working to confirm the precise nature of the video transfer,” which he called a “reported breach,” and he stated there was “no indication” that McCarthy and Carlson followed the same protocols adopted by the January 6 Committee in handling the footage.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) followed with a letter to his colleagues on Wednesday that warned McCarthy is making available “a treasure trove of closely held information about how the Capitol complex is protected and its public release would compromise the safety of the Legislative Branch and allow those who want to commit another attack to learn how Congress is safeguarded.”
McCarthy boasted of giving Carlson the tapes in a fundraising email reported Wednesday by a Bloomberg Government journalist. “I promised I would give you the truth regarding Jan. 6, and now I am delivering,” he said.
McCarthy fundraising off of giving Tucker Carlson access to 1/6 Surveillance tapes pic.twitter.com/raptge3F5C
— Emily Wilkins (@emrwilkins) February 22, 2023
That appeal to donors led to a rebuke from at least one of McCarthy’s Democratic colleagues.
“Kevin McCarthy undermines security on Capitol Hill – in ways officials say could endanger the safety of Capitol Police officers – to feed January 6 footage to a propagandist who downplayed the attack on the Capitol,” tweeted Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). “Now McCarthy is using that to raise money. Absolutely appalling.”
The New York Times report said McCarthy stated that he planned to share the footage with other news outlets after Carlson’s exclusive. In addition, McCarthy insisted to the newspaper that his team staff members were taking the matter “very seriously.”