Watchdogs on Monday slammed Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's decision to hand 41,000 hours of surveillance footage of the January 6 attack to far-right Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has repeatedly used his massive platform to peddle disinformation, spew bigotry, and cast doubt on the severity of the 2021 insurrection.
"McCarthy giving exclusive access to many hours of January 6 Capitol security footage to Tucker Carlson, who has consistently downplayed the insurrection, is irresponsible and shows McCarthy's lack of regard for protecting democracy," Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, wrote of the Republican leader's decision, which was first reported by Axios.
Carlson, who in 2020 pushed for the firing of a Fox News reporter who fact-checked former President Donald Trump's election lies, has vocally demanded the public release of the security footage. But McCarthy granting the right-wing host and his team exclusive access to the trove has raised questions over how much of the video will actually reach the public—and how it will be edited and framed.
"Funneling footage of a domestic riot to only one member of an extremist media organization is not releasing the footage to 'the public,'" The New Republic's Prem Thakker wrote Monday in response to Rep. Lauren Boebert's (R-Colo.) celebration of the move.
"Perhaps the move is an attempt to dilute the reality of how violent the riot was: just present thousands of hours of inaction or argue that the larger majority of protesters were simply expressing their First Amendment right to free speech," Thakker suggested. "Maybe Carlson will spend dedicated segments railing against the Capitol police, trying out ways to blame those defending the Capitol and divert blame away from the people attacking it."
Axios reported Monday that "Carlson TV producers were on Capitol Hill last week to begin digging through the trove, which includes multiple camera angles from all over Capitol grounds. Excerpts will begin airing in the coming weeks."
"Carlson has repeatedly questioned official accounts of 1/6, downplaying the insurrection as 'vandalism,'" Axios noted. "Carlson last yearcalled the attack an "outbreak of mob violence, a forgettably minor outbreak by recent standards."
Judd Legum, the author of the Popular Information newsletter, argued that "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."