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The decision to give Tucker Carlson exclusive Jan. 6 footage is not aging well

Kevin McCarthy’s recent actions are looking more irresponsible and destructive by the day.

In February, we learned that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., made the very troubling decision to release U.S. Capitol surveillance footage from the Jan. 6 insurrection exclusively to Tucker Carlson of Fox News. McCarthy said he was doing it because the tapes belonged to the people — which makes what he did utterly incomprehensible.

That incomprehensibility is only reinforced by the parallel drama taking place in court, where evidence in the defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox, scheduled for an April trial, is providing truly shocking news.

That incomprehensibility is only reinforced by the parallel drama taking place in court.

In a deposition taken earlier in the Dominion case that was released Monday, Fox Corp. Chair Rupert Murdoch testified that “some of our commentators were endorsing” former President Donald Trump’s big lie that the election was stolen from him. “I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it, in hindsight,” he said. Now one of those same commentators, courtesy of the speaker of the House, has been handed the opportunity to rewrite our history and do further damage to our country.

Americans deserve better.

McCarthy seems to disagree. For one thing, he was quite cavalier about the enormous security risk releasing all of the video created. The footage turned over to Carlson could compromise security for members and employees of Congress and provide future would-be-rioters with a road map to the Capitol and its security systems. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., put it this way in a letter: “The footage Speaker McCarthy is making available to Fox News is a treasure trove of closely held information about how the Capitol complex is protected and its public release would compromise the safety of the Legislative Branch and allow those who want to commit another attack to learn how Congress is safeguarded.”?

McCarthy now claims he will eventually make the thousands of hours of video more widely available, “as soon as possible.” But meanwhile, Carlson has the exclusive, and to what end??

Does McCarthy hope Fox News can rewrite the history of the insurrection, at least in the minds of enough voters to help his party in future elections? Does he think Fox News can massage the footage — before it makes it to other outlets — and craft an alternative theory of the?attack, perhaps?blaming, despite evidence to the contrary, that?it was?the work of antifa or some other?code-for-Democrats group?

It’s difficult to interpret McCarthy’s actions in any other way — after all, those who want the true story of Jan. 6 need to look no further than the exhaustive and bipartisan report the House select committee produced. We don’t need Carlson to tell us what happened on Jan. 6.

It’s especially troubling that McCarthy would single out Carlson as the recipient of the footage. Dominion’s defamation case centers around allegations that Fox repeatedly aired false statements about voter fraud and the 2020 election. Dominion’s pretrial motion for summary judgment offers testimony and communications from hosts and executives at Fox as evidence that the network and its hosts publicly pushed election fraud narratives as they acknowledged in private that those narratives weren’t true. Dominion’s proof are words drawn straight from the source.

On Nov. 12, 2020, after Fox News had called Arizona for Joe Biden and the outcome of the election was clear to everyone, except perhaps Trump himself, Carlson texted with colleagues about a Fox reporter who accurately noted there was no evidence to support the allegation that Dominion’s machines led to voter fraud. “Please get her fired,” Carlson texted, according to a court filing. “Seriously....What the f---?” he continued. “I'm actually shocked...It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.”?

A Fox spokeswoman said, according to The New York Times, that “Dominion has mischaracterized the record, cherry-picked quotes stripped of key context and spilled considerable ink on facts that are irrelevant under black-letter principles of defamation law.” But whatever the outcome of the lawsuit, Carlson’s own words condemn McCarthy’s judgement. (Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is a fan, though, tweeting that she was happy about the video release and “very happy to be right again in my support for Kevin McCarthy as our Speaker.”)?

Announcing his opportunity to access and use the footage to his viewers, Carlson said his smartest producers had been looking at “this stuff” and “trying to figure out what it means and how it contradicts or not the story we’ve been told for more than two years. We think already in some ways that it does contradict that story.” This came after what Carlson characterized as “about a week” of reviewing 44,000 hours of footage.

So here we are, with a speaker so ensnared by the promises he made to win the speakership that he is willing to compromise our still-fragile recovery. And a cable TV host willing to help.

This is not an issue of journalistic fairness, or bothsidesism. There are not two sides to this story.?

To date, the history of the insurrection has been written by a bipartisan House committee, with staff leadership provided by a former Republican U.S. attorney and a former Democratic one. The committee presented Americans with testimony from witnesses who were almost exclusively Republicans, including many Trump administration insiders. It sought out the truth. If McCarthy, who chose not to share his testimony with the Jan. 6 committee, wanted to advance their work, he could have released footage to journalists across the spectrum. He did not.

It may be that the next chapter in the history of the insurrection will be written by state and federal prosecutors, as they try to hold the people most responsible for Jan. 6 accountable. Heading toward that possible conclusion, McCarthy’s actions are irresponsible and destructive.

On Wednesday, top Democrats Schumer and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York wrote a letter to Rupert Murdoch and other Fox News executives demanding that the network stop spreading lies. Meanwhile, Tucker Carlson has yet to reveal his full plans for the Jan. 6 tapes. But it’s only a matter of time.

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