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McCarthy defends giving Tucker Carlson access to Jan. 6 video

The speaker says he gave the footage to the Fox News host in the name of transparency and accountability, but that action has drawn widespread, bipartisan criticism

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) likened the Jan. 6 insurrection to protests after the murder of George Floyd. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Sunday again defended giving access to more than 40,000 hours of security video from the U.S. Capitol when it was attacked on Jan. 6, 2021, to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who recently used that video to describe most of the people who entered the building that day as “peaceful, orderly and meek” individuals who “revere” the Capitol.

Appearing on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures,” McCarthy said he will “slowly roll out to every individual news agency” access to the same trove, so “they can come see the tapes as well.”

Capitol Police chief blasts Tucker Carlson over ‘misleading’ Jan. 6 footage

Carlson contended last week that “the footage does not show an insurrection or a riot” by a mob of Donald Trump supporters. He said that only a “small percentage” of people involved were “hooligans,” while the “vast majority” of those who entered the Capitol were “not insurrectionists. They were sightseers” who gave “each other tours outside the speaker’s office” and took “cheerful selfies.”

“They’re not destroying the Capitol,” Carlson said. “They obviously revere the Capitol.”

Carlson has also spread a wide array of conspiracy theories and echoed racist rhetoric about White people being replaced by minorities.

McCarthy said Sunday that he had released the footage to Carlson in the name of transparency and accountability. He then equated the attack on the Capitol to the protests after the murder of George Floyd in police custody. McCarthy said he had watched federal courts and cities burn, and there was “nobody arrested there.”

The show’s host, Maria Bartiromo, appeared to endorse Carlson’s depiction of the Jan. 6 attack, saying that seeing people being “escorted by police within the Capitol” that day was “quite stunning.” McCarthy nodded his head in agreement.

McCarthy’s decision and Carlson’s description of the day have been widely criticized by law enforcement officials and lawmakers in both parties.

The siege led to at least seven deaths, resulted in assaults on at least 174 police officers and caused more than $2.7 billion in losses, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office.

On March 12, Republicans disagreed with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) granting Fox News host Tucker Carlson sole access to Jan. 6 insurrection video. (Video: Blair Guild/The Washington Post)

The Justice Department recently said that more than 999 people who were at the riot on Jan. 6 have been arrested in nearly all 50 states and D.C. on charges such as assault, entering a restricted federal building, destruction of government property and conspiracy. About half have pleaded guilty; about 220 have been sentenced to jail and 100 to home detention, according to a government statement on the insurrection.

McCarthy and Jeffries want the House to work. So they started with each other.

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said in a memo to his department last week that Carlson’s show was “filled with offensive and misleading conclusions.” Manger also said Carlson and his producers did not seek context or comment from the Capitol Police before showing the surveillance videos.

Later, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) held up a copy of Manger’s memo in front of reporters and said, “I want to associate myself entirely with the opinion of the chief of the Capitol Police about what happened on January 6th.” (McConnell also made clear that he was criticizing how Carlson portrayed Jan. 6, not his access to the video.)

On Saturday night, former vice president Mike Pence said that many lives were in danger on Jan. 6 and that Trump was responsible. In a speech in Washington, Pence said Trump’s “reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day. And I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”

Pence says ‘history will hold Donald Trump accountable’ for Jan. 6th

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that “every media outlet” and “every defense attorney” should have access to the video that McCarthy made available to Carlson. Mace appeared to criticize Carlson’s downplaying of the attack, saying that “there was violence on that day. You cannot deny that.”

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” that he also disagreed with characterizing the insurrection as peaceful.

“You know, a four-hour stroll through the Capitol that’s marred by a half-hour of rioting doesn’t make it a peaceful protest,” Cramer told host Chuck Todd. But he also called for moving past the debate. “What frustrates me as much as anything, Chuck, is that we’re talking about it again.”