Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calf.) defended his decision to grant Fox News host Tucker Carlson access to tens of thousand of hours of security footage from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by saying he had “promised” to release the video.
“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.”
A Wednesday fundraising email blast from McCarthy’s campaign with the subject line “Tucker Carlson’s Jan. 6 footage” relayed the same message.
“I promised I would give you the truth regarding January 6th, and today I am delivering,” said the email signed by McCarthy.
According to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who opposed McCarthy on more than a dozen ballots in the drawn-out Speaker election battle in January, wider release of Jan. 6 footage was part of an agreement McCarthy struck with his detractors in order to secure the gavel.
“Kevin McCarthy told us he’s going to get the evidence out in front of the American people, and that means releasing the 14,000 hours of tapes that have been hidden, that I think would give more full context of that day,” Gaetz said on “The Charlie Kirk Show” in January. “Part of this deal is a concession that we are going to get the truth out in front of the American people.”
Carlson himself also suggested that McCarthy release all of the Jan. 6 footage as opposition from 20 hard-line conservatives forced him into a drawn-out floor battle.
“If Kevin McCarthy wants to be the Speaker, he is going to have to do things he would never do otherwise,” Carlson said on his Jan. 3, 2023, show. “Release the January 6 files. Not some of the January 6 files and video, all of it. And not just some phony committee that will hide them, that in fact is designed to hide them from the public, but put them online. Release them to the public directly so the rest of us can finally know what actually happened on January 6, 2021.”
Democrats have slammed McCarthy for releasing the security footage, expressing worries about how it will impact Capitol security.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a letter to colleagues on Wednesday that McCarthy “is needlessly exposing the Capitol complex to one of the worst security risks since 9/11,” warning that the footage’s public release could “allow those who want to commit another attack to learn how Congress is safeguarded.”
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) also called it an “egregious security breach.”
The choice of granting access to Carlson has added to greater outrage. Carlson’s 2021 “Patriot Purge” documentary series argued the riot was used as pretext for political persecution of Trump supporters, and included speculation that the riot was a “false flag” or a “honeypot” to trap rally attendees.
“Giving someone as disingenuous as Tucker Carlson exclusive access to this type of sensitive information is a grave mistake by Speaker McCarthy that will only embolden supporters of the Big Lie and weaken faith in our democracy,” Schumer said in his letter.