Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy must either retrieve the 44,000 hours of video footage from January 6, 2021 that he provided to Tucker Carlson or promptly make the same footage available to the public, according to a letter CREW and Public Citizen sent to McCarthy. 

McCarthy’s release of a massive trove of sensitive government material to a politically-friendly media outlet is both unprecedented and dangerous. Reports show that McCarthy did so without consulting the Chief of the U.S. Capitol Police or his colleagues in Congress, many of whom have now raised grave concerns that some of the footage could expose security vulnerabilities and increase the risk for future attacks on the Capitol complex, especially if released selectively or deceptively.

“Speaker McCarthy sharing thousands of hours of footage from January 6th with a conspiracy theorist is incredibly dangerous and deeply concerning. If McCarthy does not retrieve the footage, it must be released to the public,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder. “Americans deserve to know the full story of what happened on January 6th, not just the details Tucker Carlson decides to selectively share.”

“The release of sensitive security footage of the violent insurrection compromises the safety of everyone who frequents the Capitol and makes it harder for the Capitol police to do their job. Simply put, the footage must be returned. However, in the event that a return is not accomplished, our letter sharply demands equity. Hand picking a release to Tucker Carlson shows deep pandering to election denialism rather than any commitment to public information and truth, “ said Lisa Gilbert, Executive Vice President, Public Citizen.

Under the common law right of access to public records and documents, these videos are clearly a public record, which McCarthy himself has repeatedly emphasized by claiming it “belong[s] … to the American people.” Furthermore, balancing the government’s interest in confidentiality against the public’s right to this information tilts heavily towards disclosure, given the public interest and need for answers about January 6th. McCarthy having already provided all 44,000 hours of video footage to Carlson has also substantially eroded the government’s ability to claim confidentiality interests in keeping the videos from the public. Releasing the videos publicly would also limit the ability of Carlson or others to use the videos deceptively.

If McCarthy refuses to retrieve the videos from Carlson—which CREW and Public Citizen strongly encourage and prefer—then the videos must be made available to the American public. 

Photo by Gage Skidmore under a Creative Commons license.

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