CNN, along with a group of other media organizations, has signed on to a letter calling for congressional leaders to grant access to security footage from inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy gave Fox News’ Tucker Carlson access to the material earlier this month.
In a Friday letter on behalf of the press coalition to McCarthy, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, attorney Charles Tobin called on Congress to release all the security footage showing the attack on the Capitol.
“Without full public access to the complete historical record, there is concern that an ideologically-based narrative of an already polarizing event will take hold in the public consciousness, with destabilizing risks to the legitimacy of Congress, the Capitol Police, and the various federal investigations and prosecutions of January 6 crimes,” Tobin said in the letter.
Advance Publications, ABC News, Axios, CBS News, Scripps, Gannett, the Los Angeles Times, Politico and ProPublica are the other media organizations joining CNN on the letter.
The request comes after Carlson announced on his show that he had been granted “unfettered” access to “44,000 hours” of surveillance footage from inside the Capitol on January 6. CNN previously reported that McCarthy did not consult with his House GOP leadership team or with Jeffries before deciding to give Carlson access.
In an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, McCarthy justified the decision by saying, “I promised.”
“I was asked in the press about these tapes, and I said they do belong to the American public. I think sunshine lets everybody make their own judgment,” the California Republican told the Times.
McCarthy has faced significant pressure from his right flank to relitigate the work of the House select committee that investigated the January 6, 2021, insurrection. The now-defunct January 6 panel got access to all the security footage from US Capitol Police during its investigation, but it did not release some footage for security reasons. A source familiar with the committee’s work told CNN that the unreleased footage was considered sensitive material because it showed top officials moving through the US Capitol when they evacuated to safety.
During his bid for the speakership, McCarthy vowed to hold hearings on the security failures that led to the Capitol getting overrun, and he told the select committee to preserve all of its records for potential future review by the newly empowered GOP majority.
Carlson has been a prominent promoter of January 6 conspiracy theories and has devoted significant airtime to boosting false claims that liberal “deep state” partisans within the FBI orchestrated the insurrection as a way to undermine former President Donald Trump.
Some Republican lawmakers had hoped to review the material themselves, likely to look for footage to support their controversial claims about the January 6 attack.
Democrats have criticized McCarthy’s decision to give Carlson access to the security footage.
Jeffries said in a letter to colleagues that the move “represents an egregious security breach that endangers the hardworking women and men of the United States Capitol Police, who valiantly defended our democracy with their lives at risk on that fateful day.” Schumer told his Senate colleagues in a letter that the disclosure “poses grave security risks to members of Congress and everyone who works on Capitol Hill.”
CNN’s Sydney Kashiwagi contributed to this report.