Kevin McCarthy, Tucker Carlson and the Jan. 6 Tapes

4 minute read

Before he was Speaker, Kevin McCarthy refused to cooperate with the Jan. 6 committee’s investigation of the 2021 Capitol riot. Now that he’s in control of the House, he has joined forces with those trying to discredit the panel’s findings.

The California Republican has reportedly handed over more than 40,000 hours of U.S. Capitol surveillance footage exclusively to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has devoted hours of his prime time show to downplaying the deadly Capitol attack as a “false flag” operation or mere “vandalism.”

“Some of our smartest producers have 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,” Carlson told his viewers Monday night. “We think already in some ways that it does contradict that story.” Carlson said that he and his producers would spend a week reviewing the footage before airing selected parts next week.

Democrats and some Republicans say they fear Carlson will use the raw footage to sow doubt about the Jan. 6 committee’s findings. The bipartisan panel, whose hearings garnered more than 20 million viewers, concluded its investigation by saying that former President Donald Trump was morally and likely criminally responsible for the deadly assault on the Capitol as part of his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Ahead of Carlson’s expected release of parts of the footage, here’s what to know.

How long has Carlson had the footage?

According to Axios, Carlson’s producers went to Capitol Hill last week to begin collecting and reviewing the trove of footage.

Is there a security risk in granting Carlson access to the footage?

Democrats and former Republican members of the Jan. 6 committee say that by releasing the footage to Carlson, McCarthy could divulge security methods used by law enforcement to defend the Capitol complex. In both the public hearings and the final report, the House panel deliberately tried to obscure any details that could compromise lawmakers’ safety.

“The apparent transfer of video footage represents an egregious security breach that endangers the hardworking women and men of the United States Capitol Police,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat from New York, wrote Tuesday in a letter to the rest of his caucus. He added that there was “no indication” that McCarthy upheld the protocols in place to protect legislators, Congressional staff, and Capitol Hill law enforcement.

What are Trump supporters saying?

Some of the former president’s loudest supporters are already touting the release of the footage. “For all of you that doubted we would release the tapes. Here you go!” Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted on Monday. “I’m very happy to be right again in my support for Kevin McCarthy as our Speaker. Americans deserve to see the truth, not a one sided narrative and unfair two tiered justice system.”

How have Democrats responded?

Jeffries, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and other Democratic leaders denounced McCarthy’s move as an attempt to minimize the severity of the Jan. 6 attack, at least in the eyes of Carlson’s right-wing audience. The footage’s release comes as the 2024 presidential contest is already gaining steam, with Trump off to a slow start to campaigning, and his former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, having entered the race to challenge him.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi who chaired the Jan. 6 committee, hosted a presentation on Wednesday at a virtual meeting of the Democratic conference, warning of the security risks. “It’s hard to overstate the potential security risks if this material were to be used irresponsibly,” Thompson said in a statement.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at