Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on March 7 told reporters that it was a “mistake” for Fox News to allow Tucker Carlson to depict the events of Jan. 6 as he did on his March 6 daily program.
On Feb. 20, it was announced that Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had given Carlson exclusive access to 41,000 hours of surveillance footage from the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Carlson has two programs: his primetime program “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” which earlier this month drew in over 3.5 million viewers in a week, and “Tucker Carlson Originals,” a new series of documentaries by Carlson. Carlson could draw from the footage provided by McCarthy for both programs.
During the last Congress, the Jan. 6 panel pushed a narrative of events that portrayed the Capitol breach as the culmination of a months-long effort by Trump and his supporters to overthrow the U.S. government.
Notably that panel, formed in a mostly party-line vote, included only two Republicans: former Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), both virulent Trump critics.
Thus, the narrative adopted by the panel was criticized for being unfairly weighted against the former president.
On his show, Carlson has often been critical of this narrative.
In the past, Carlson has dismissed Jan. 6 as an “outbreak of mob violence, a forgettably minor outbreak by recent standards.”
McConnell, by contrast, has largely rubber-stamped the official narrative of Jan. 6, leading to clashes with others in his party over the issue.
On March 6, Carlson aired the first of the unreleased Jan. 6 footage, coming to the conclusion that the true events of Jan. 6 were radically different from the committee’s narrative.
“Taken as a whole, the video record does not support the claim that January 6 was an insurrection,” Carlson said. “In fact, it demolishes that claim.”
Later, Senate GOP Leader McConnell was asked whether it was a “mistake” for McCarthy to give Carlson access to the footage.
“My concern is how it was depicted,” McConnell replied ambivalently, “which is a different issue.”
“Clearly the chief of the Capitol Police, in my view, correctly describes what most of us witnessed firsthand on January 6,” McConnell said, citing a letter from U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) Chief Steven Manger that was released after Carlson’s segment.
Manger dismissed the segment, saying it came to “offensive and misleading conclusions about the January 6 attack.”
Asked about the situation, McConnell told reporters that he agrees with Manger.
“It was a mistake in my view for Fox News to depict this in a way that’s completely at variance with what our chief law enforcement official here at the Capitol thinks,” McConnell said.
On March 6, Carlson aired his first segment using the newly released footage.
“Virtually no one in Washington, D.C., Republican or Democrat, wanted these tapes released tonight,” Carlson stated in the kickoff to the explosive segment.
“Democrats in Congress, assisted by [Reps. Adam Kinzinger (D-Ill.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.)], lied about what happened that day,” he continued.
“They are liars,” he emphasized. “That fact should prevent them from ever being taken seriously again.”
The videos people haven’t seen “paint a very different picture of what happened that day” compared to the narrative of the Jan. 6 panel, Carlson said.
“By controlling the images you could see from January 6, they controlled how the public understood that day.”
Carlson said the USCP, despite dire warnings from the left of impending catastrophe if Carlson released the tapes, found little to criticize in the footage Carlson chose. Carlson said the only change requested by the Capitol Police was blurring out the details of a single door.
In the “enormous crowd” that entered the Capitol that day, Carlson said “only a few were hooligans” who committed illegal or violent acts.
“These were not insurrectionists—they were sightseers,” Carlson said. “Protestors queue up in neat little lines; they give each other tours outside the speaker’s office; they take cheerful selfies, and they smile. They’re not destroying the Capitol: they obviously revere the Capitol. They’re there because they believe the election was stolen from them; they believe in the system.
“These are not rioters—they’re people who wandered over from a political rally,” Carlson stated.