Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he does not regret sharing footage from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson despite receiving bipartisan blowback, arguing that the decision was made for transparency.
“No,” McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday when asked if he regretted granting Carlson access. “I said at the very beginning, transparency. And so what I wanted to produce for everybody is exactly what I said. The people could actually look at it and see what’s gone on that day.”
McCarthy’s comments came one day after Carlson aired never-before-seen angles of footage from the Jan. 6 attack on his prime-time show, rejecting the notion that the day was a “deadly insurrection” and instead describing it as “mostly peaceful chaos.”
A number of deaths have been tied to the Capitol attack, and more than 100 law enforcement officers were injured amid the violence.
Asked on Tuesday if he agreed with Carlson’s description of Jan. 6 being “mostly peaceful chaos,” McCarthy responded, “I don’t know what Tucker Carlson said.” When pressed on if he believed the day was an insurrection, McCarthy returned to the matter of transparency.
“I continue to hold that my job here, just like I was asked long before, is to make sure all the transparency comes out. And that’s exactly what I’m doing,” McCarthy said. “And just like all of you cover news, people who are able to interpret the way they want. But I think the fairest way to do it instead of trying to clip it into something else, allow all the transparency so everybody can see so Jan. 6 never happens again.”
Later Tuesday evening, however, he reiterated that he condemns what transpired on Jan. 6.
Carlson’s broadcast on Monday night — the first of a two-part installment — ignited a political firestorm on Tuesday, with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, and even a top law enforcement official, condemning the host’s depiction of the deadly riot.
Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, who does not frequently weigh in on political matters, wrote to lawmakers in a memo that Carlson’s show was full of “offensive and misleading conclusions about the Jan. 6 attack.”
“The program conveniently cherry-picked from the calmer moments of our 41,000 hours of video. The commentary fails to provide context about the chaos and violence that happened before or during these less tense moments,” he wrote in the memo, later adding, “Those of you who contributed to the effort to allow this country’s legislative process to continue know firsthand what actually happened.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday held up a copy of Manger’s statement and told reporters he wanted to “associate myself entirely with the opinion of the chief of the Capitol police about what happened on Jan. 6.” He said his “concern is how it was depicted.”
“It was a mistake, in my view, [for] Fox News to depict this in a way completely at variance with what our chief law enforcement official here at the Capitol” described, McConnell added.
McCarthy sidestepped questions about that criticism hours later. Asked about Manger’s comments he said he “didn’t see what was aired” before emphasizing transparency.
Pressed on McConnell’s reaction, McCarthy said he hoped the Senate minority leader “would’ve been concerned” about reporting from CNN that said, during the Jan. 6 riot, lawmakers were brought to Fort McNair. The Speaker said members were told not to share their location. McCarthy brought up CNN’s reporting at a separate point during the press conference as well.
The Speaker said he will release all the footage to all media outlets, but did not indicate when.
McCarthy on Tuesday did, however, say the deaths of officers tied to Jan. 6 was “tragic.” During the program, Carlson cast doubt on the circumstances around the death of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died the day after the riot. D.C.’s chief medical examiner said Sicknick died of natural causes.
“The officers’ deaths is tragic,” McCarthy said. “Any time an officer has passed in this situation I want to make sure they’re protected.”
Emily Brooks contributed to this story.