Tucker Carlson and the Jan. 6 tapes deepen Trump divide between McConnell and McCarthy

WASHINGTON – Fox News host Tucker Carlson's airing of footage from the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, has deepened the fissures between two key Republican leaders: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.   

McCarthy has faced mounting pressure this week after giving Carlson more than 41,000 hours of video footage from the insurrection. Some of that pressure has come from U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger and McConnell. 

The speaker defended giving the security camera footage to Carlson as an act of "transparency," telling reporters he was providing an opportunity for people to "see what went on that day." 

Manger, McConnell and other critics say Carlson has falsely depicted what happened on Jan. 6 by describing it as "mostly peaceful chaos." The Capitol Police chief said Carlson's conclusions were "offensive and misleading."

More:Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger blasts Fox News' Tucker Carlson over Jan. 6 video

Opinion:Believing Tucker Carlson's Jan. 6 lies is a choice, but most will choose the truth

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 7, 2023 in Washington, DC. McConnell spoke on a range of issues after a closed-door lunch meeting with Senate Republicans.

What McConnell said about McCarthy and the Tucker Carlson tapes

McConnell, at a news conference Tuesday, backed Manger's assessment: "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."

The minority leader didn't answer whether it was a mistake for McCarthy to give Carlson access to the tapes. 

"My concern is how it was depicted, which is a different issue," McConnell said. 

What has the White House said?

The White House shares a similar opinion with Manger and McConnell.

"We agree with Fox News' own attorneys and executives who have repeatedly stressed in multiple courts of law that Tucker Carlson is not credible when it comes to this issue," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. 

President Joe Biden offered a stronger rebuke later Wednesday in a tweet. 

"More than 140 officers were injured on Jan 6.

I’ve said before: How dare anyone diminish or deny the hell they went through?

I stand with the (Capitol Police). 

I hope House Republicans feel ashamed for what was done to undermine our law enforcement."

McConnell and McCarthy show different approaches to former President Donald Trump

The top two Republicans in Congress have long taken different approaches to Jan. 6 and Trump's election lies that preceded the deadly insurrection. That's partially because of the different political realities in the House and Senate. 

McCarthy, who has a more raucous and further-right flank to manage, sought Trump's approval during the midterms and in his bid for speaker. In fact, it was a phone call on the House floor from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., to Trump that helped McCarthy clinch the speakership on the 15th round of voting.

McConnell, meanwhile, has publicly lambasted the former president and said there is "no question" Trump was "practically and morally responsible for provoking" the Jan. 6 riot. But he did vote to acquit Trump after the House impeached him. 

Also, McConnell in recent months has described Trump as "diminished" in power after many of his political picks and proteges lost in the midterms. McConnell noted he would seek more qualified candidates to back in 2024 Senate races.

Contributing: Joey Garrison

Candy Woodall is a Congress reporter for USA TODAY. She can be reached at cwoodall@usatoday.com or on Twitter at @candynotcandace.