I wrote earlier about Speaker of the House Keven McCarthy “selling his soul to white supremacy” by granting Fox News star Tucker Carlson exclusive access to raw Capitol surveillance footage of the January 6 coup attempt. It now appears that McCarthy miscalculated how this would play with Republicans.
Rolling Stone reports that conservative media competitors are angry that they’ve been excluded and are preparing lawsuits. Hilariously, this includes Mike Lindell the Pillow Guy.
On Monday, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell — a close Trump associate who has been one of the largest financial backers of the election-denialism movement since late 2020 — told Rolling Stone he’s now working with two attorneys, Doug Wardlow and Pat McSweeney, to file a lawsuit against McCarthy as soon as within the “next few days.” Lindell says he and his legal team have drafted a suit arguing his streaming program, Lindell TV, is being “injured” and discriminated against by not enjoying equal access to the unreleased Jan. 6 trove. The Trump ally, who often finds himself to the pro-Trump right of Fox News, notes that he doesn’t trust Fox’s “agenda” with these tapes, and dubs McCarthy’s decision “disgusting” and allegedly unconstitutional.
“As you correctly and publicly stated, the footage ‘belong[s] to the American public.’ Accordingly, I request the same access for my media company, Lindell TV,” the MyPillow CEO wrote to McCarthy in a Feb. 23 letter he provided to Rolling Stone. “Please have your staff reach out to me to arrange for access.”
The problem is that the base isn’t feeling very warmly about Fox News at the moment. Look no further than the revelation that owner Rupert Murdoch admitted in a Dominion Voting Systems’ lawsuit deposition that his on-air talent knowingly embraced the Big Lie that the 2020 election was rife with fraud that cost President Trump a second term in office. That caused an immediate meltdown by Trump on his Truth Social network.
“Why is Rupert Murdoch throwing his anchors under the table, which also happens to be killing his case and infuriating his viewers, who will again be leaving in droves—they already are.”
This is more than just conjecture on Trump’s part. The latest Fox News poll shows Trump on a glide path to the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, leading his nearest competitor Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, by 15 points. The cable news outlet’s conservative viewers, like conservatives in general, still support Trump. And they have three other reasons to quit their Fox News habit.
For some, learning that the executives and talent at Fox News privately have contempt for both Trump and their own audience is a reason to leave. A few will be disturbed to learn that Fox News promoted lies about the 2020 election and look for more trustworthy sources, but more will probably seek out outlets that don’t contradict Trump. It was early evidence that this was happening that led Fox News to go along with Trump’s election lies leading up to the January 2021 coup attempt.
McCarthy probably thought Carlson was in good standing with the pro-Trump crowd, but that’s debatable. It’s now clear that Carlson sees them as “good people” but hopelessly stupid. He knew they would leave if the network contradicted Trump but mainly because they were gullible. He privately argued that Trump is “the undisputed world champion” of destroying things and could ruin Fox News if it didn’t back his election lies.
McCarthy probably overestimated how popular Carlson is with the MAGA crowd, and the same goes double for Carlson’s employer.
One problem with the release of January 6 footage to Carlson is that it could put members of Congress at greater risk, since it will show how they were evacuated and protected during the insurrection. This can be seen easily in how the House Republicans are treating a proposal to make the footage available to January 6 defendants.
Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), who chairs the House Administration Committee’s oversight subpanel, said that the access for accused rioters and others — which Speaker Kevin McCarthy has greenlighted — would be granted on a “case-by-case basis.”
…“What gets released is obviously going to be scrutinized to make sure you’re not exposing any sensitive information that hasn’t already been exposed,” said Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.).
No such scrutiny preceded the access Carlson was provided. Now they’re trying to argue that they’ll pre-screen any footage Carlson intends to air so that there is no harm or foul here. I suppose that’s better than nothing.
These missteps have caused political and practical consternation within the House Republican caucus, as CNN reports:
Speaker Kevin McCarthy faced questions from his leadership team Monday night over his plans to publicly release security footage from January 6, 2021, multiple sources told CNN – a process that he said could take some time to disseminate widely even as Fox News host Tucker Carlson has had an early glimpse.
While GOP leaders are supportive of the move to release the footage – which was one of the many concessions McCarthy made in his bid to become speaker – some lawmakers in the closed-door leadership meeting asked whether sensitive security protocols or certain evacuation routes would be exposed by taking that step.
Others questioned how long the footage is going to be dragged out in the press, with some lawmakers concerned about the optics of appearing to try to downplay a deadly insurrection in the US Capitol.
“Let’s just rip the Band-aid off and get this over with,” one GOP lawmaker told CNN.
I think it’s safe to say that McCarthy’s decision to give the footage exclusively to Carlson without any pre-screening has flopped. The GOP is now trying to clean up the mess, but it sadly failed even where it should have succeeded. It hasn’t won good will from Trump’s supporters because they no longer trust Fox News.