Guest Editorials, Opinion

Real journalists must have access to Capitol footage

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is supposed to work for the American people first and his party second. Fox News conspiracy-monger Tucker Carlson isn’t supposed to be anywhere on that list. McCarthy’s outrageous decision to give Carlson exclusive access to thousands of hours of Capitol security camera data that is generally shielded for security reasons should settle once and for all any lingering doubts about the unique political cravenness of this so-called leader.

Democrats have angrily warned that the footage could compromise Capitol security by revealing where all the cameras are and what escape routes were used. Democratic leaders — who have the same power McCarthy does to order the Capitol Police to provide the camera data — should immediately make them available to other major media outlets.

At issue is security camera footage from throughout the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, when then-President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the seat of government attempting to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after an election Trump lost.

While most of the country understands the dire threat to democracy that occurred that day, hard-core Trump supporters in Congress and conservative media continue to try to fog up what happened, presenting the violent insurrectionists as peaceful victims of government overreaction. Carlson has been particularly prolific in trying to rewrite the history of that day, going so far as to make the baseless, deranged suggestion that the riot was orchestrated by the FBI to embarrass Trump.

It is presumably a coincidence, but a telling one, that McCarthy favored Carlson with this exclusive access even as evidence emerges in a massive defamation suit against Fox that Carlson and his fellow anchors knew and discussed the fact that they were allowing Trump’s backers to lie on their shows about his phony election fraud claims.

McCarthy’s crassly partisan decision to give gasoline to a political arsonist should be considered in the same context as everything else he’s done since becoming speaker this year, after a contentious struggle that required him to sell his soul to a cadre of the most extreme right-wingers in his caucus. Having agreed to rules that could remove him if he displeases even a few of them, he has little choice but to do their bidding. Thus, a right-wing talking head who has repeatedly lied to his own viewers about Jan. 6 now has a massive video trove he will no doubt cherry pick to back up his false narratives.

Some Republican extremists have claimed their only motive is getting all the information in front of the public. If that’s true, they should have no problem with providing the footage to responsible media outlets. Since Carlson is about to crank his propaganda machine up to 11, it’s urgent that real journalists are able to counter him with the facts.

This editorial first appeared in the  St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This commentary should be considered another point of view and not necessarily the opinion or editorial policy of The Dominion Post.