Watchdogs demand ethics probe of Kevin McCarthy’s Jan. 6 footage gift to Tucker Carlson

Watchdogs demand ethics probe of Kevin McCarthy’s Jan. 6 footage gift to Tucker Carlson
Kevin McCarthy speaks on day 2 of the 2016 RNC (Image via Voice of America / Wikimedia Commons).

A group of watchdogs on Tuesday urged the Office of Congressional Ethics to launch an investigation into House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's decision to exclusively hand more than 40,000 hours of security video from the January 6 Capitol attack to far-right Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who is already selectively using the trove of footage to spin the insurrection as a largely peaceful event.

In their request for an investigation, Public Citizen's Craig Holman and Lisa Gilbert and former White House ethics officials Norm Eisen and Richard Painter wrote that "the exclusive release of the Jan. 6 video footage appears to have been the result of a political agreement between McCarthy, Tucker Carlson, and others in McCarthy's bid to become speaker."

While McCarthy has defended the arrangement with Carlson as similar to the common practice of giving select members of the media "exclusives on certain things," the watchdogs contended that "this is not like granting an exclusive interview; this is providing a valuable government resource exclusively to one news outlet and discriminating against others, which flies in the face of First Amendment values."

The ethics experts went on to argue that "the speaker's release of security footage exclusively to Tucker Carlson is pure and simple using congressional resources for partisan gamesmanship—the very type of polarizing gamesmanship that has caused such damage to the public's perception of the integrity of Congress."

The investigation request was submitted to the Office of Congressional Ethics—an independent body that House Republicans have worked to gut—just hours after Fox News aired Carlson's first segment featuring the exclusively obtained footage.

Consistent with his past descriptions of the January 6 assault, Carlson used the Monday night segment to selectively present footage aimed at downplaying the attack and portraying the Trump supporters involved as individuals who "revered the Capitol"—a narrative that runs counter to publicly available evidence of violence and significant damage to the Capitol building.

Carlson signaled that segments in the coming days will feature additional security footage obtained through the deal with McCarthy.

Matt Gertz of Media Matters for America noted Monday that "there was never any plausible chance that Carlson's team would look at the footage and decide to tell their audience that it proved they had been wrong all along."

"He's not an impartial finder of fact—he's a propagandist who is in the business of telling his viewers what they want to hear," Gertz wrote. "In this case, they want to believe that they and their political fellow travelers were the victims, so that's what they are going to hear."

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