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Tucker Carlson's staff could view but not record Jan. 6 footage, GOP lawmaker says

McCarthy gives Capitol riot video to Fox News
McCarthy hands over Capitol riot footage to Fox News 05:24

Washington — Fox News host Tucker Carlson's staff was permitted to view but not record portions of some 41,000 hours of police videos documenting the events of Jan. 6, 2021, with the opportunity to request copies of some of the clips under an agreement reached with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's office, according to the high-ranking Republican member of the committee that oversees the U.S. Capitol Police.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia, who chairs a subcommittee of the House Committee on Administration, told CBS News that a screening station was set up for the Fox News team to view videos from the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6. The staffers were not allowed to record or remove any of the videos from the screening area, he said. 

The Fox News team "may request any particular [video] clips they may need, then we'll make sure there's nothing sensitive, nothing classified, including escape routes," Loudermilk said. "We don't want al Qaeda to know certain things."

He said the clips requested by Fox News and cleared for release by his committee would eventually be made public and available to other media outlets, many of which have demanded equal access to the footage. Loudermilk said the timeframe for the release to Fox and the public remains unclear: "Hopefully sooner rather than later, but I think we're talking about weeks to months."

Later at the Capitol, McCarthy defended his decision to make the footage available, telling reporters that he "want[ed] to make sure we don't play politics" with the footage's release and ensure that "everyone's able to get it." 

He said Carlson specifically assured him he did not intend to view or show any video revealing the exit routes that lawmakers used to flee the Capitol on Jan. 6. "We walked through the security basis, so there's no concern," he said. He confirmed he intends to release all of the footage publicly "as soon as possible."

Asked about potentially providing Jan. 6 defendants with access to the videos, McCarthy said they "already have it."

"It's my understanding, before, if you were a defendant you could have all the footage," he added. Some attorneys have argued that files and videos already provided to them by the Justice Department have been voluminous and are a challenge to sort through.

Though Loudermilk said the Administration Committee would have some oversight of the video release, he told CBS News the agreement with Fox News was reached by McCarthy before the committee was even organized earlier this year. "That came directly from the speaker's office," Loudermilk said.

Multiple House Republicans said the sharing of some of the massive trove of police videos with Fox News was discussed at a Tuesday morning meeting of GOP lawmakers. Loudermilk said there was no noticeable protest or dissent about the video agreement with Fox News among Republicans at the meeting.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said that any videos that are eventually released are "obviously going to be scrutinized to make sure that you're not exposing sensitive information."

The unilateral arrangement between McCarthy and Fox News has drawn sharp criticism from House Democrats. In a letter to colleagues last week, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York wrote that "[e]xtreme MAGA Republicans in the House have provided tens of thousands of hours of sensitive Capitol security footage to a FOX News personality who regularly peddles in conspiracy theories and Pro-Putin rhetoric."

A group of media organizations, including CBS News, wrote to congressional leaders last week arguing the footage made available to Fox should also be made available to other media groups.

"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," attorney Charles Tobin wrote on behalf of the outlets.

Zak Hudak contributed reporting.

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