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WASHINGTON — It was not a mystery what Tucker Carlson would do with exclusive access to hours of surveillance footage from Jan. 6, 2021.
The Fox News host claimed long ago that the scenes broadcast on live TV that day showed the horde of Donald Trump supporters acting peaceably.
“You see people walking around and taking pictures,” Carlson told his millions of viewers in September 2021. “They don’t look like terrorists, they look like tourists, and all of them by the way are Americans.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) recently gave Carlson the entire archive of video from inside the Capitol, and on Monday, the host declared that the footage definitively confirmed his prior view.
“These were not insurrectionists,” Carlson said. “They were sightseers.”
It’s an outrageously untrue claim ― and so far this week, McCarthy has tried hard to avoid saying whether he agrees.
“I don’t know what Tucker Carlson said,” McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday.
It’s tough to believe that McCarthy’s staff did not at least brief the speaker on what Carlson did with all that video footage. It’s more likely that McCarthy is familiar with the show but would simply prefer not to discuss it, given that disagreeing with Carlson could anger the far-right House Republicans who helped McCarthy win the speaker’s gavel.
On Wednesday, McCarthy declined to tell reporters whether he’d familiarized himself with the recent Carlson broadcast downplaying the Capitol attack. He ignored a HuffPost question about whether he still considered Jan. 6, 2021, to have been a “violent insurrection,” as he said he did last year.
More than 500 people have pleaded guilty to federal charges for what they did that day, including 60 who pleaded guilty to attacking police. About 220 people have been sentenced to time in prison so far, according to the Justice Department.
Meanwhile, House Republicans are planning several counter-investigations into the federal response to the Capitol riot. CNN reported Tuesday that a House Administration Committee panel will launch two probes: one into the security failure leading up to the attack, and another into the special ad-hoc committee that investigated the riot last year.
And members of the House Oversight Committee are preparing to send the D.C. jail a formal request for a tour of the facilities where some Jan. 6 suspects are detained pending trial.
“We’ll be looking at the conditions at the jail,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a member of the committee, told HuffPost, adding she was concerned about “human rights abuses” inside the notorious facility.
Greene has described Capitol riot defendants as “political prisoners” and repeatedly sought to draw attention to their plight. She told HuffPost that there were “many” Jan. 6 defendants held at the D.C. jail who hadn’t been charged with violent crimes and who should have been released ahead of their trials.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which has overseen the Jan. 6 cases, told HuffPost that as of Wednesday, there were approximately two dozen Capitol siege defendants held in pretrial detention.
“Almost all of these defendants are charged with assaultive conduct and none are charged only with misdemeanor offenses,” the spokesperson said.
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the second-ranking Republican in the House after McCarthy, suggested investigating the jail wouldn’t be a top priority.
“I don’t know if that’s going to be something that ― there’s a few different committees that are looking at a number of things not just related to Jan. 6, and looking at some of these agencies that abused their power,” Scalise told HuffPost.
Like McCarthy, Scalise avoided saying whether he agreed with Carlson that the Capitol riot had actually been peaceful, instead praising McCarthy’s decision to release the material.
“The bottom line is there’s finally transparency,” Scalise said.