Coalition of media companies sues for Jan. 6 tapes given to Fox News' Tucker Carlson

Samuel Corum

WASHINGTON — A coalition of nine media companies, including CNN, The New York Times and Politico, have sued for copies of the surveillance videos from the Capitol riot that Speaker Kevin McCarthy gave exclusively to Fox News.

In the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, the media companies demanded that the Justice Department's Office for U.S. Attorneys and the FBI "promptly" provide copies of the footage from Jan. 6, which they characterized as "the most significant assault on the Capitol since the War of 1812."

Other plaintiffs seeking access to the tapes include Advance Publications, which owns Vogue, GQ and regional newspapers; The Associated Press; ProPublica; CBS; E.W. Scripps, a large local TV broadcaster; and Gannett, which owns USA Today and several local newspapers. The media outlets say the suit was brought using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which allows the public, including journalists, to request access to federal records, unless the information is in an exempted category.

McCarthy, R-Calif., faced pressure to release the video from allies of Donald Trump in Congress, who have worked to further the former president’s argument that the attack that day was peaceful. Five people died during or shortly after the riot, and more than 130 police officers were injured that day. Hundreds of participants have been charged with crimes, including some for attacks on the police.

When McCarthy was struggling to secure the speakership earlier year, Carlson argued on television that McCarthy should release the Jan. 6 videos to win over enough Republicans. In February, Carlson said he was provided access to about 44,000 hours of security feeds during the attack.

Asked in February when the videos would be released to other outlets and the public, McCarthy said, “As soon as possible.”

Carlson, using the videos provided to him by McCarthy, aired segments last month that appeared to portray the Jan. 6 attack as a peaceful gathering and showed rioters calmly walking around the Capitol, rather than the violence.

Lawmakers, including Republicans, blasted Carlson's segments as offensive and misleading. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said McCarthy’s decision “poses grave security risks” to lawmakers and people who work in the Capitol, warning that it could lead to another assault on the building.

"It was a mistake, in my view, for Fox News to depict this in a way that’s completely at variance with what our chief law enforcement official here at the Capitol thinks," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The media outlets submitted a FOIA request days after Carlson announced he had the videos, but they have not been notified of the scope of records the DOJ planned to produce or withhold within the time limit required by law, the companies said in their lawsuit.

The media companies added in the filing that the FBI had responded to the FOIA request on March 2, saying it was unable to identify records and deliver what was requested by the media companies.

The DOJ did not immediately respond to request for comment on the lawsuit Wednesday, and the FBI declined to comment.

NBC News was among a group of news organizations that previously asked McCarthy to share the footage.

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