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    Editorials
    Tuesday, February 27, 2024

    Kevin McCarthy’s big mistake

    In a news conference at the Capitol last month, a reporter asked House Speaker Kevin McCarthy if the videotapes of the Jan. 6 riot should be released to the public. “Yeah, I think the public should see what happened,” the California Republican said.

    Apparently, in McCarthy’s view, “the public should see what happened” means giving Fox News host Tucker Carlson unlimited access to the thousands of hours of footage.

    The news website Axios broke the news Monday that McCarthy had done just that, and Monday night Carlson affirmed it on his show. “We believe we have secured the right to see whatever we want to see,” he told viewers, adding his producers have been going through the materials for a week.

    There are serious security risks involved in giving Carlson full access to the video. Anyone watching the video will be able to determine camera angles and field of vision within the Capitol’s rooms and halls, as well as the emergency routes Capitol Police used to get elected leaders away from rioters.

    Up to now, the public release of sensitive video has only occurred with the agreement of the Capitol Police. The agency said it had no choice but to hand over the video, given the speaker’s request.

    Then there’s the fact that Carlson has been a leading voice promoting all manner of conspiracy theories to explain what happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

    Carlson has voiced doubts on findings by the House’s official Jan. 6 committee, and instead produced a three-part documentary that said FBI operatives were behind the rioting. Carlson has said the rioters did not look like terrorists, but rather, appeared to be tourists. He has likened the damage done to the Capitol to “vandalism.”

    As a reminder, five people died as a result of the rioting, and 140 law officers suffered injuries from people wielding flagpoles, bats, bear spray and other weapons.

    Carlson’s ridiculous notions come from someone recently shown to be duplicitous. Depositions in a trial involving Fox News and a company that makes ballot-counting machines revealed that Carlson and other Fox hosts promoted election fraud lies by former President Donald Trump even as they privately agreed he lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden.

    Carlson wanted to get rid of a Fox news reporter who had fact-checked a Trump tweet. He said that reporter was bad for the Fox News brand. This came at a time when the network was losing viewers to a smaller, more conservative rival.

    It should be no surprise to anyone that Carlson’s points are made to back the Fox News business model, not reality and certainly not facts. That last point was made in 2020 when a federal judge found in Carlson’s favor in a slander lawsuit. The judge found “that (Carlson) is not ‘stating actual facts’ about the topics he discusses and is instead engaging in ‘exaggeration’ and ‘non-literal commentary.’“

    Exaggeration. Non-literal commentary. And now Carlson has access to the security videotapes from the Jan. 6 riot. One can only imagine the sheer lunacy he is going to peddle.

    The real issue, however, is not Tucker Carlson, but rather Kevin McCarthy giving the Fox News host access to the tapes.

    McCarthy is right in saying the American public should be able to see the videos. They are government property and as such belong to the American people.

    But releasing them first to Carlson is irresponsible, given how Carlson engages in falsehoods. The speaker should instead have placed the videos on his own congressional website — after clearing them with Capitol Police for any security issues. That way, the public and the media would have had equal opportunities to view them along with Carlson.

    The speaker was asked whether releasing the videos to Carlson posed security risks. His office’s answer: ““Unlike the previous Democrat majority, House Republicans will treat the issue of the security of the Capitol separate from partisan political interests.”

    It is hard to draw any conclusion other than Speaker McCarthy is following purely partisan political interests in how he has handled release of the Jan. 6 videos.

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