Kevin McCarthy offers his first sacrifice to the MAGA cult

His gift to Tucker Carlson is one of many capitulations to the far-right extremists in the party for Kevin McCarthy

By Heather Digby Parton


Published February 22, 2023 9:01AM (EST)

Kevin McCarthy (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Kevin McCarthy (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Last week, America received proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Fox News is a dishonest institution that spread Donald Trump's Big Lie knowing full well that he did not win the election. In a court filing from the defamation case brought by Dominion Voting Machines against the company, it was revealed that all of the top brass and their stars were fully aware that the election had not been stolen yet remained terrified of losing their deluded audience (which they had been instrumental in brainwashing) so they parrotted Trump's bogus claims. In this specific case, they spread the falsehood that the Dominion machines were rigged for the Republicans. As Dominion argued in the filing:

"Not a single Fox witness testified that they believe any of the allegations about Dominion are true. Indeed, Fox witness after Fox witness declined to assert the allegations' truth or actually stated they do not believe them, and Fox witnesses repeatedly testified that they have not seen credible evidence to support them."

And they had the receipts. The emails from the likes of owner Rupert Murdoch, and stars such as Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson are unequivocal proof that these people are all liars. For their part, Fox News dismissed Dominion's findings as "a lot of noise and confusion." 

After what we learned about the Fox News host, how in the world can Kevin McCarthy justify handing over such sensitive information to Tucker Carlson?

In the wake of the network's call on election night giving the Arizona electoral votes to Joe Biden, which was true, their audience, under instructions from Donald Trump, left the network in droves for the competition, Newsmax and OAN. The executives and the stars were terrified that the stock price was being negatively impacted by their decision to tell the truth. As Salon's Igor Derysh reported, Carlson was so distraught when a reporter on the network reported that election security officials stated there was no evidence that the voting machines had been compromised that he texted Hannity:

Please get her fired. Seriously… What the fuck? I'm actually shocked… It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It's measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke."

This filing was a shocking set of documents that, in a normal, healthy democracy, would finish Fox News as a credible media company to the remainder of society that didn't already know it wasn't. But America is not a normal, healthy democracy and it could not be clearer that it isn't by the fact that just days after that stunning revelation, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced that he saw fit to give unfettered access to 41,000 hours of Capitol surveillance footage from the Jan. 6 insurrection to none other than Tucker Carlson.

It's almost as if McCarthy was playing some kind of elaborate practical joke. After what we learned about the Fox News host, how in the world can McCarthy justify handing over such sensitive information to Tucker Carlson?

Without a second thought for the security of the institution or the safety of his fellow officials, McCarthy's decided that MAGA love is all that matters.

These tapes have been closely guarded by the Capitol Police ever since the event and have been turned over to the January 6 Committee and Justice Department prosecutors, as well as defense lawyers, but no one in the media has been given access — until now

The committee asked for permission from U.S. Capitol police before they used any of the footage in public hearings, these people said, as they did not want to publicly disclose the location of security cameras in the building. The committee cut and minimized use of the footage accordingly, these people added.

According to Politico's Kyle Cheney, "Tucker Carlson doesn't "have" any Jan. 6 footage. He hasn't "obtained" it. His people are viewing it on a terminal in the Capitol and it's unclear when he'll get permission to air any of it, let alone lots of it." If Cheney is right, worries about the footage getting into terrorist or extremist hands for nefarious purposes (if you don't count Carlson) may just be overblown. On the other hand, Carlson did say he would have "unfettered" access so who knows?

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

The real problem is that this release could compromise some of the ongoing criminal trials. Carlson will almost certainly try to create a counternarrative of January 6, which won't be hard to do since most of his audience probably never even saw the hearings or read anything about what actually happened. Instead, they've been fed a steady stream of lies, particularly from Carlson, since that fateful day. 

Calson's most well-known bit of slickly produced propaganda on the subject is his "documentary" called "Patriot Purge." In it, Carlson suggests that January 6 attack was actually a plot by Antifa, the FBI and other members of the "deep state" working in concert as a false flag operation to make Trump look bad. Fox News commentators Stephen Hayes and Jonah Goldberg resigned in protest over it but it did Carlson no harm. He's never been more popular.

He declared the January 6 Committee investigation a lie and, with characteristic unctuous sanctimony, told Axios that "if there was ever a question that's in the public's interest to know, it's what actually happened on January 6. By definition, this video will reveal it." He went on to say: "It's impossible for me to understand why any honest person would be bothered by that." I'm not sure that honest people are bothered so much by the video being released to the public as they are bothered that it's being released to a proven liar and propagandist, like Tucker Carlson, who will likely dole out the tidbits he thinks will twist what happened into a believable alternative theory of what we all saw with our own eyes that day. If anyone's up for the challenge, it's him.

The truth is that the calls to release the footage have been out there almost since the day it happened, led by none other than Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. In June of 2021, the Republican sent a wild letter to top government officials demanding the release of the footage (among other things) in order to assist what she calls "political prisoners" who were arrested for sedition conspiracy. This has been one of her hobby horses ever since and she's been joined by such luminaries as Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Az., and Matt Gaetz, R-Fl., who made it clear that this was a condition of voting for McCarthy for Speaker of the House.

So this was another total capitulation to the far-right extremists in the party for Kevin McCarthy. He just took it to a whole other level by releasing it exclusively to Fox News and specifically to Tucker Carlson.

No other speaker in history would have done something so blatantly partisan as that with something so sensitive. Without a second thought for the security of the institution or the safety of his fellow officials, McCarthy's decided that MAGA love is all that matters. But he must know that they will never really love him. He's just their submissive servant and they will make him demonstrate that every day he holds the office. It would be uncomfortable to watch his ritual humiliation if he weren't so very eager to let them do it. 

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

MORE FROM Heather Digby Parton

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Capitol Riot Commentary Fox News Jan. 6 Mtg Tucker Carlson