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McCarthy calls Jan. 6 riot video a Tucker Carlson 'exclusive' and says public will have it 'soon'

The House speaker suggested he was following the Jan. 6 committee's playbook in giving the video to the Fox News host, with broader distribution "as soon as possible."
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy Speaks To The Media After Meeting With President Biden At The White House
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy outside the West Wing on Feb. 1, 2023.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Tuesday defended his decision to hand over tens of thousands of hours of security video from the Jan. 6 insurrection to Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

McCarthy told reporters that he was following the precedent of the House Jan. 6 committee in giving a news network early, exclusive access to video that he said he would later release more widely. "So he’ll have an exclusive, then I’ll give it out to the entire country," McCarthy said.

Asked when the video would be released to other outlets and the public, McCarthy said, “As soon as possible.” A group of news organizations, including NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC, asked McCarthy on Friday to share the security video with them.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York is among the Democrats who have denounced McCarthy, saying his decision to share thousands of hours of Jan. 6 video “poses grave security risks” to lawmakers and Capitol staff members.

McCarthy said Tuesday that his office had “worked with Capitol Police” to ensure that security concerns around the release of the video are “taken care of.” He criticized the Jan. 6 committee's approach, saying it aired video of his exit route that day without having consulted him. "Capitol Police told me that they didn’t consult with them, either," on some of the routes that were shown in the committee's televised hearings," McCarthy said.

According to a staffer with direct knowledge of its process, the Jan. 6 committee worked with a Capitol Police representative to make sure the video would not pose a security risk if it were released to the public.

A Capitol Police spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

McCarthy also said that Carlson had “certain parts" of the Jan. 6 security video "that he wants to see" but that he “specifically said he didn’t want to see any exit routes, so that’s all fine.”

Asked whether he consulted with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., about releasing the tapes to Carlson, McCarthy said simply, "No."

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., defended McCarthy's decision Tuesday, saying the Jan. 6 committee "released a lot of video that was very sensitive."

"They released a lot of stuff that probably wouldn’t be good for Capitol Police, but ultimately, you know, exposing, like I said, the vice president’s full route," Scalise said.

Scalise said he wasn't sure whether that part of the video was "scrutinized" before it was made public but said McCarthy "wants transparency" this time around.

Scalise said Democrats didn't express concern about the sensitive nature of the video played at the committee's public hearings last year.

"I didn’t hear a lot of concern about that back then. We were concerned how selective they were," Scalise said. "But ultimately, Speaker McCarthy’s talked about going through, and then what gets released is going to obviously be scrutinized to make sure that you’re not exposing any sensitive information that hasn’t, by the way, already been exposed."

McCarthy's comments Tuesday were his first public remarks about the subject; this week he repeatedly avoided questions from reporters about the video.

Last week, Carlson said on his prime-time show that he and his team had gained access to about 44,000 hours of security camera video taken during insurrection.

Carlson said his producers had been looking at the video “trying to figure out what it means and how it contradicts or not the story we’ve been told for two years” about Jan. 6, 2021. Last week, he said that his team planned to spend the rest of the week going through it and that he would “bring you what we find next week."