McCarthy’s GOP tries to move on from Tucker Carlson-Jan. 6 drama
About 12 hours after Tucker Carlson’s latest Fox News segment minimizing the severity of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, House Republicans had already moved on.
Instead, many GOP lawmakers who gathered Wednesday morning were upbeat as Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his leadership team celebrated their unexpected win on a bill rolling back progressive D.C. crime laws and plotted their response to Thursday’s White House budget.
Carlson didn’t come up at all during House Republicans’ meeting, according to four members in the room who spoke on condition of anonymity. And not a single GOP lawmaker asked about it when given the chance to speak. In fact, some members were privately surprised by the amiability of this week’s first closed-door huddle — generally because there is usually some drama, but particularly since the Fox News segment has publicly reopened painful cross-party fissures over Jan. 6, 2021.
Yet, McCarthy’s decision to let Carlson access thousands of hours of Capitol footage from the riot has left a lingering cloud over his own leadership team, which was repeatedly pressed about the move as Carlson continues to downplay the violence of the siege by supporters of former President Donald Trump. Senate Republicans heaped criticism Tuesday on Carlson’s portrayal of the riot, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (though few directly dinged McCarthy).
“It seems like some in the press want to talk about Jan 6 every day. So do Democrats. They only want to talk about certain parts of it, though,” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) told reporters during a press conference where every question focused on the Fox News footage.
Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), who represents a battleground district, said that House Republicans see attention to Carlson’s portrayal of Jan. 6 as “more of a media thing.”
“In the end, everybody should get access,” Bacon added, “but literally, I don’t hear anybody back home talking about it.”
With many in the GOP eager to change the subject, McCarthy and his leadership team are slated to hold a second press conference later Wednesday, focused squarely on President Joe Biden’s budget release.
But not everyone in the party is prepared to let it go. In one sign the GOP will continue to go on the offensive: Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) are working to set up a congressional delegation to visit people jailed for alleged crimes on Jan. 6, as POLITICO first reported.
Greene, who pushed GOP leadership to commit to a probe of Jan. 6-related detention, would lead the trip.
In addition, Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) told reporters Wednesday that the GOP conference is starting to more closely review the work of the last Congress’ Democrat-run Jan. 6 select panel. Loudermilk recently secured the speaker’s permission to let accused Jan. 6 rioters — and eventually the public at large — access Capitol Police security footage that is in the House GOP’s possession.
“Part of it is: Why did they not address [Capitol security]?” Loudermilk asked of the select committee, which devoted one of the appendices of its final report to that issue. “And so we have [to] really pick up where they left off. And so we have the documents, we have the videos, we have a lot of information. And we’re going through that.”
While a handful of House Republicans openly criticized McCarthy’s decision to give the footage to Carlson, none mentioned the speaker by name and all pointed to the clips Fox News showed to argue that the Jan. 6 select committee only presented one side of the riot.
Since the first Jan. 6 segment aired on Monday night, several House Republicans have parried questions by claiming they did not see Carlson’s show or by otherwise avoiding the media. Others privately argued that McCarthy had made a strategic choice to engage with Carlson, one designed to appeal to the party base as he leads the GOP conference with a razor-thin majority.
Carlson, who has blasted McCarthy on-air in the past, stated on his show that he got no interference from the speaker’s office or his own higher-ups at Fox before broadcasting his segments. And McCarthy, for his part, has fiercely defended his decision to share material with Carlson in the face of criticism from the Senate GOP as well as Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger.
Jordain Carney contributed to this report.