Fox News host Tucker Carlson aired newly released footage on his show Monday from the January 6, 2021, US Capitol attack, that included images of the rioter known as the “QAnon Shaman,” as well as of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died following the attack.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy granted Carlson access to more than 40,000 hours of the Capitol security footage from January 6. CNN and other news organizations have also requested access to the security footage. McCarthy’s office said it is still working out the process to make the footage “more widely available” but did not comment further. The speaker said Tuesday that the footage would be released to all media organizations, but did not say when.
Capitol Police have continuously warned that release of all security footage from the Capitol could pose a potential security risk for the building. CNN has reached out to Capitol Police for comment.
Carlson, who used the footage in an attempt to downplay the violence and defend the pro-Trump mob, claimed he had Capitol Police review the footage before airing it.
“We do take security seriously, so before airing any of this video we checked first with the Capitol Police,” Carlson said. “We’re happy to say their reservations were minor and for the most part they were reasonable. In the end, the only change that we made was in blurring the details of a single interior door in the Capitol building.”
Multiple sources on Capitol Hill, however, told CNN that Carlson’s show provided only one clip to review and not the others.
Here’s what was in the footage that aired Monday:
QAnon Shaman’s role
Carlson claimed that new Capitol security footage taken on January 6 shows Jacob Chansley, known as the “QAnon Shaman,” walking through the Capitol without pushback from police.
In one clip, Chansley is shown with two officers who attempt to open a door near the Senate chamber. In a second clip, Chansley, still flanked by the two original officers, walks between a group of about half a dozen officers and none appear to try to step in.
There is no audio in the videos, and it is not clear whether the officers and Chansley are talking to each other.
In court documents, however, prosecutors say that Capitol Police officers repeatedly tried to engage with Chansley and others in the crowd, asking them to leave.
Prosecutors say that Chansley disobeyed that request and walked to the Senate floor. Video from that day shows officers following Chansley around the building, and an officer walks into the chamber with Chansley and continues to ask rioters to leave.
Additionally, Capitol Police officers have testified at several January 6 trials that after the initial wave of rioters entered the building, they felt outnumbered and were afraid of escalating violence by engaging with the mob. Members of the crowd were therefore able to walk into the building without much, or any, physical resistance, according to the officers.
Chansley pleaded guilty to a felony charge of obstructing the Electoral College proceedings on January 6 and was sentenced to 41 months in prison.
Carlson aired never-before-seen surveillance footage that he said showed Sicknick, who died one day after the January 6 insurrection. Carlson said he focused on this because Democrats have turned Sicknick into a “prop” and a “martyr” by overstating the links between his death and the insurrection.
Carlson used the new video to try to undermine the known facts surrounding Sicknick’s death, and to argue that January 6 was less violent and “deadly” than it has been portrayed.
The video shows Sicknick in the crypt of the Capitol, appearing to give instructions to some of the nearby rioters who are milling around the area, repeatedly waving his arms. Carlson argued that Sicknick looks “healthy and vigorous” in the video, and therefore “it’s hard to imagine” that he was severely injured by the rioters or that he died because of the insurrection.
On January 6, Sicknick was attacked with pepper spray and physically fought with members of the mob. An officer testified that she saw Sicknick in significant distress after he was sprayed. He died one day later after suffering a series of strokes. The DC medical examiner ruled that he died of natural causes but said, “all that transpired (on January 6) played a role in his condition.”
According to Carlson, the new tape of Sicknick was recorded after he was attacked on the frontlines of the Capitol steps, earlier in the day. CNN does not have access to the footage and cannot verify Carlson’s claims, and it’s unclear how Fox News determined that it’s Sicknick in the video.
The new Sicknick footage does not disprove the medical examiner’s conclusion that January 6 influenced Sicknick’s death, and it doesn’t erase the fact that Trump supporters assaulted Sicknick that day.
Two rioters pleaded guilty to crimes related to the pepper spray attack against Sicknick, though neither were accused of killing him. Julian Khater, who deployed the spray, is currently serving a six-year prison term. His friend George Tanios spent five months in jail and has been released.
Sicknick’s mother, Gladys Sicknick, previously blamed Trump supporters for his death. In a statement Monday, after Carlson’s show, the Sicknick family blasted Fox News and argued that the footage shows how he was able to valiantly “resume his duties” after being attacked by the mob.
“Every time the pain of that day seems to have ebbed a bit, organizations like Fox rip our wounds wide open again, and we are frankly sick of it,” the Sicknick family said in the statement.
Here’s the status of DOJ prosecutions
According to statistics released by the Justice Department earlier Monday, more than 999 people are facing federal or local charges related to the January 6 attack, 326 of whom have been charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees.
According to the department, 140 officers were assaulted at the Capitol that day, including 60 Metropolitan Police officers and 80 Capitol police officers.
And 518 of those charged have pleaded guilty to various charges related to that day, including 60 defendants who have pleaded guilty to federal charges of assaulting officers.
Federal prosecutors said in a court filing Tuesday that “nearly all” of the security footage played by Carlson was previously available to attorneys representing riot defendants.
The disclosure came as part of a response to defense attorney Joseph McBride, who represents several Capitol riot defendants. McBride had asked a federal judge last week to delay his client Ryan Nichols’ upcoming trial so that he too could review the footage from McCarthy’s office.
The judge in that case has not yet ruled on whether the trial will be delayed. Nichols has pleaded not guilty.
Backlash on Capitol Hill
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday strongly criticized Carlson for diving “deep into the waters of conspiracy” to tell “the bold faced lie” that the Capitol attack was not violent.
He also strongly condemned McCarthy for sharing the footage with Fox, arguing McCarthy is “every bit as culpable” as Carlson.
“To say January 6 was not violent is a lie – a lie pure and simple,” Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a prime time cable news anchor manipulate his viewers the way Mr. Carlson did last night. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an anchor treat the American people and American democracy with such disdain and he’s going to come back tonight with another segment.”
The pushback didn’t just fall along party lines. Several GOP senators rejected the notion that January 6 was “mostly peaceful chaos” as Carlson had contended.
“I think it’s bullsh*t,” GOP Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina told CNN Tuesday of Carlson’s portrayal of the attack, adding, “I just don’t think it’s helpful, but I do think it’s important to point out that that’s happened on both ends of the political spectrum and they’re both wrong.”
Sen. Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican, similarly told CNN, “I think that breaking through glass windows and doors to get into the United States Capitol against the orders of police is a crime.”
“I think, particularly when you come into the chambers, when you start opening the members’ desks, when you stand up in their balcony, to somehow put that in the same category as a permitted peaceful protest is just a lie,” Cramer said.
But McCarthy told reporters Tuesday evening that he had no regrets about releasing security footage to Carlson.
“I said at the very beginning, transparency, and so what I wanted to produce for everybody is exactly what he said – that people can actually look at it and see what’s going on that day,” McCarthy told CNN’s Manu Raju.
When pushed on whether he agrees with Carlson’s characterization of the attack on the Capitol, McCarthy said that everyone has their own opinions of January 6.
“Each person comes up with their own conclusion,” the California Republican said.
This story has been updated with additional information.
CNN’s Manu Raju, Melanie Zanona, Kristin Wilson and Nicky Robertson contributed to this report.