When Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer appeared on the chamber floor this morning, the New York Democrat made no effort to hide his disgust with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. After seeing the television personality cherry pick Jan. 6 footage to create an outlandish counter-narrative, Schumer called the coverage “one of the most shameful hours we have ever seen on cable television.”
He went on to say the host “was lying to his audience,” adding, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen an anchor treat the American people, and American democracy, with such disdain.”
But Carlson wasn’t the only target of the Senate leader’s ire. From Schumer’s remarks:
“Speaker McCarthy is every bit as culpable as Mr. Carlson. Speaker McCarthy’s decision to share security footage with Fox looked like a mistake from the very beginning, but after last night, it looks like a disaster. Speaker McCarthy has played a treacherous — a treacherous — game by catering to the hard right. He’s enabled the Big Lie and has further eroded away at our precious democracy. When people don’t believe elections are on the level, that is the beginning of the end of this bold experiment in democracy that has gone on for more than two hundred years. It is all the more shameful because Speaker McCarthy knows precisely what kind of customer Mr. Carlson is — he is not surprised by this outcome.”
Schumer, who has not gone out of his way of late to pick fights with the new leader of the lower chamber, concluded, “What a low point for Speaker McCarthy. ... Speaker McCarthy was here that day. He knows what actually happened. His staff and members suffered like everyone else. But he chose cheap political expediency over truth and preservation of democracy.”
It’s an important detail. Much of the focus since last night has been on Carlson, which obviously makes sense: The controversial host and his team are the ones who requested special access, went through the footage, selected the parts that told the story they wanted to tell, and painted a misleading picture for the public.
But this was inevitable. Everyone knew this is exactly what Carlson would do.
McCarthy, on the other hand, was the first domino, setting this series of events in motion. The Republican House speaker knew what the Fox host would do; he knew about Carlson’s ridiculous record on Jan. 6 coverage; and he knew how dangerous it would be to have a counter-narrative undermining the public’s understanding of reality.
But McCarthy did it anyway — and he turned it into a fundraising appeal.
The GOP leader has struggled for weeks to come up with a compelling defense for his role in this scheme, and for good reason: There is no compelling defense.
Carlson’s segment was ludicrous, but as the controversy moves forward, let’s not overlook the politician that gave the Fox host exclusive access to sensitive footage in the first place.