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McCarthy tries to dodge responsibility for Jan. 6 footage gambit

Kevin McCarthy effectively handed Tucker Carlson matches and lighter fluid, but he apparently didn't feel the need to tune in when the Fox News host started a fire.


House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has never said what he thought would happen after giving Tucker Carlson exclusive access to Jan. 6 security camera footage, but the California Republican shouldn’t have been too surprised by the resulting fiasco.

The Fox News host cherry-picked footage that allowed him to tell the deceptive story he set out to tell, and the result has sparked outrage from both parties and law enforcement. In theory, the GOP leader should take this opportunity to reflect on the mess he was responsible for helping create.

In practice, as The Hill reported, McCarthy says he has no regrets:

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 as I said at the very beginning, giving a controversial television personality exclusive access to sensitive footage, allowing him to create a twisted counter-narrative for far-right conspiracy theorists, isn't what “transparency” means.

When a reporter went on to ask if McCarthy agreed with Carlson’s description of Jan. 6 as “mostly peaceful chaos,” the House speaker responded, “I don’t know what Tucker Carlson said.”

In other words, by the Republican leader’s telling, he didn’t even watch the program that he personally made possible. McCarthy effectively handed Carlson matches and lighter fluid, but he didn’t feel the need to tune in when the host started a fire.

It’s not exactly a compelling response. In recent years, phrases such as “I haven’t read the tweet” or “I didn’t see the interview” have become standard dodges on Capitol Hill, but in this instance, the circumstances are rather unique: As historian Kevin M. Kruse put it, “The usual ‘I didn’t see the show’ dodge doesn’t fly when you’re the one who made the show possible.”

Revisiting our recent coverage, whether McCarthy likes it or not, he 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.

This post updates our related earlier coverage.