Angelo Carusone: Speaker McCarthy giving exclusive access to Tucker Carlson shows that the GOP and Fox News are fused

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Citation From the February 25, 2023, edition of MSNBC's American Voices with Alicia Menendez

ALICIA MENENDEZ (HOST): Major media outlets, including NBC News and MSNBC, are asking Speaker McCarthy for the Capitol security video from January 6. This comes after Fox host Tucker Carlson said Speaker McCarthy gave him access to about 44,000 hours of footage. Other news organizations want the Capitol video to be more widely shared. Also concerned about Fox getting exclusive access, former members of the January 6 committee, They warned Carlson would use the Capitol tapes to fuel far-right conspiracies.


MENENDEZ: Joining me now, Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters. Angelo, of course, no one I more wanted to speak with this story about than you. And I want to say I generally do not play Tucker Carlson's comments on the show, but I'm going to play just a snippet about what he has said about January 6 because I think it is important context. Take a listen.


MENENDEZ: Speaker 1: Okay. So there you go. That is his very selective, incorrect view of this riot. What do you think he is planning with the Capitol surveillance video?

ANGELO CARUSONE (MEDIA MATTERS PRESIDENT): Yeah, I think that's a good way, a good place to start as to what he's planning. And we actually kind of know already because he produced a product, a sort of, a preliminary product, a documentary, a three-part series on this about a year ago called Patriot Purge. And in it, he argued and tried to present – and it was done through sort of very rapid clip changes and all these  juxtapositions and innuendo, total deceptions.

But it basically argued that January 6 was a false flag, that it was perpetuated in some way either by the FBI, by law enforcement. Perhaps Nancy Pelosi was responsible for it. But either way that it didn't actually happen, what it was was a psyop pushed on America and by Democrats in cahoots with the media to basically to give them the sort of the premise to then crack down on conservatives. So what he's basically going to do to your question is take now this raw footage that he has and flesh out that initial sort of framework that he presented in that three-part series about a year ago. It was a right-wing fever dream, kind of plucked from Telegram, Alex Jones programing, and sort of the worst of the election denial universe. And now he's going to have all the evidence to selectively edit and you know, and attempt to validate it.

MENENDEZ: I mean, here's the thing. The Tucker piece of this is in some ways less maybe less surprising to me than the Speaker McCarthy piece of this, especially because Tucker has previously called Speaker McCarthy, quote, a puppet of the Democratic Party. Why all of a sudden might they be partnering?

CARUSONE: I think that there's a couple of things to consider here. One, you know, when Rush Limbaugh passed away, and that created a really big gap in the right-wing media. And Tucker Carlson has kind of filled in that gap as the center of gravity sort of pulling together and holding together all the different factions.

So in a way, he's sort of the new titular head of the Republican Party. That's the first thing to consider.

And the other thing is consider is that and this is, I think, a reflection of where we're going and some of the chaos we saw playing out during the McCarthy fight was actually because the right-wing media had been demanding that the tapes get released. A few sort of far-right Republicans advocated for this during the Speaker battle, and McCarthy promised that he would release the tapes. And so this was one of the concessions that he actually made. In fact, he confirmed that just a couple of days ago. So that's a part of this. It's a power play.

And it's – it does sort of reinforce that, you know, Fox News in particular and Tucker and the right-wing media more broadly, they're not adjacent to or parallel to the Republican Party. They're sort of fused together. They're one and the same. And the real power right now lies with the center of gravity. And that is sort of a white genocide-advocating, Fox News personality and he's, you know, much of what's going to end up happening in McCarthy's office is going to be filtered through what's going to work for Tucker or not. Because the truth is, McCarthy couldn't keep his speakership if Tucker continued to pound away at him.

MENENDEZ: I appreciate you reminding us that this is about power, both soft power and hard power. In addition to that, I just want to layer on to the stakes. You had Congressman Raskin saying he has concerns that releasing this footage could lead to another Capitol attack. I wonder, as someone who watches what the far-right groups say online, what is it that they're saying about these tapes?

CARUSONE: They're saying it's going to prove that this was a false flag and that this is not only going to vindicate them, but in a way, it's going to help identify who was actually behind this or the groups behind this so that they can be the patriots that they are and take appropriate actions against them to protect themselves in America.

So in a way, this is going to sort of be the target that gets painted on a lot of people's backs, either explicitly or by innuendo. And this is something that Tucker has been doing consistently. And the right-wing media, you know, we've seen it play out in some of these culture war fights. This is going to be another iteration of that. In this case, though, they're playing with groups that are very explicitly militarized by default, and that's who's actually being activated here.