23 February 2023

Kevin McCarthy gives Fox News host access to January 6 footage

23 February 2023

Thousands of hours of surveillance footage from the January 6 attack on the US Capitol are being made available to Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson.

It is a stunning level of access granted by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and it is raising new questions about the Republican leader’s commitment to transparency, oversight and safety at the Capitol.

A hard-right political commentator, Mr Carlson said his team is spending the week at the Capitol poring through the video and preparing to reveal their findings to his viewers.

But granting exclusive access to sensitive January 6 security footage to such a deeply partisan figure is a highly unusual move, seen by some critics as essentially outsourcing House oversight to a TV personality who has promoted conspiracy theories about the attack.

It is not lost on anyone that the one person that the speaker decides to give hours and hours of sensitive secret surveillance footage is the person who peddled a bogus documentary trying to debunk responsibility for the January 6 riot from Donald Trump onto others

“It’s a shocking development that brings in both political concerns but even more importantly, security concerns,” said Democrat Dan Goldman, who was a chief counsel during former president Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial.

Many critics warn that Capitol security could be endangered if Mr Carlson airs security footage that details how the rioters accessed the building and the routes politicians used to flee to safety.

And a sharply partisan retelling of the Capitol attack could accelerate a dangerous rewriting of the history of what happened on January 6, when Mr Trump encouraged a mob of supporters to head to the Capitol to overturn Joe Biden’s election.

“It is not lost on anyone that the one person that the speaker decides to give hours and hours of sensitive secret surveillance footage is the person who peddled a bogus documentary trying to debunk responsibility for the January 6 riot from Donald Trump onto others,” Mr Goldman said.

“Kevin McCarthy has turned over the security of the Capitol to Tucker Carlson and that’s a scary thought.”

Mr McCarthy’s office declined to confirm the arrangement, first reported by Axios, despite repeated requests for comment.

Gripping images and videos from the Capitol attack by Mr Trump’s supporters have been widely circulated by documentarians, news organisations and even the rioters themselves.

But officials have held back much of the surveillance video from hundreds of security cameras stationed in and around the Capitol that offer a detailed view of the grisly scene and the brutal beatings of police as they tried to stop the rioters.

The House committee investigating the January 6 attack went through a painstaking process to work closely with the US Capitol Police to review and ultimately release approved segments of the surveillance footage as part of its public hearings last year.

The chief of the US Capitol Police, Tom Manger, issued a terse statement when asked about the new release of footage: “When Congressional Leadership or Congressional Oversight Committees ask for things like this, we must give it to them.”

House Democrats planned to convene on Wednesday for a private caucus call to hear from Democratic representative Bennie Thompson, who served as the chairman of the January 6 committee, and others.

House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries called Mr McCarthy’s decision an “egregious security breach” that threatens the safety of those who work at the Capitol.

Mr Carlson, who previously produced a documentary suggesting the federal government used the Capitol attack by Mr Trump’s supporters as a pretext to persecute conservatives, confirmed that his team was reviewing the footage ahead of a possible airing.

“We believe we have secured the right to see whatever we want to see,” Mr Carlson, who is the network’s most-watched prime-time host, said on his show on Monday night.

It is not clear what protocols Carlson and his team are using to view the material, but he said that “access is unfettered”.

The House committee investigating January 6 underwent an often intense process to review the tens of thousands of hours of footage as it documented its findings.

Over the nearly two-year probe, the panel, which was disbanded once Republicans took control of the House, created a secure room in their Capitol Hill offices for staff to comb through the more than 14,000 hours of footage.

The process took months, according to a person familiar with the investigation who requested anonymity to discuss the private machinations.

Any clip of footage the committee wanted to use for their series of public hearings or for the final report had to be approved by Capitol Police to avoid any security breaches, the person said.

If police had an objection, the committee would engage in negotiations to redact any content that could potentially endanger the force or the mechanisms they use to protect the Capitol and politicians.

Key Republicans welcomed Mr McCarthy’s decision as part of his commitment to create a more transparent House and engage in oversight, as Republicans launch a far-reaching series of investigations and probes touching many aspects of government.

“I support Speaker McCarthy’s decision,” said representative Bryan Steil, the chairman of the House Administration Committee.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox