House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) aired frustration with members of his own party for making disparaging comments about GOP colleagues, saying lawmakers such as Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) were “putting people in jeopardy.”
The comments, disclosed in newly released audio from The New York Times, show McCarthy frustrated by the tenor of some of those comments in the days after Jan. 6, 2021 — a feeling that appears to have faded as GOP lawmakers continue to disparage the two Republicans who sit on the committee investigating the riot.
“These members calling out other members, that stuff’s got to stop,” McCarthy can be heard saying in a Jan. 10, 2021 recording on a call with a small group of members of House GOP leadership.
“The tension is too high. The country is too crazy. I do not want to look back and think we caused something. … I don’t want to play politics with any of that,” he added.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) also called out Gaetz, with another member chiming in to say he had made comments about Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), now the vice chairwoman of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.
“This is serious stuff. It has to stop,” he said. “It’s potentially illegal what he’s doing.”
McCarthy agreed, saying Gaetz was “putting people in jeopardy.”
“And he doesn’t need to be doing this. We saw what people would do in the Capitol, you know, and these people came prepared with rope, with everything else,” he added.
Gaetz lashed out at McCarthy and Scalise in a statement Tuesday evening, bashing them for their “sniveling calls with Liz Cheney” and that “they disparage Trump and the Republicans in Congress who fight for him.”
“This is the behavior of weak men, not leaders,” Gaetz said. “They deemed it incendiary or illegal to call Cheney and [Rep. Adam] Kinzinger ‘Anti-Trump,’ a label both proudly advertise today.”
Later in the call, McCarthy and Scalise went over “incendiary remarks” from other lawmakers, noting remarks from Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) and others who spoke at the Jan. 6 rally.
“Today is the day that American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” Brooks said at the rally near the White House.
“If you think the president deserves to be impeached for his comments that almost even goes further than the president did,” McCarthy responded.
Scalise said that some members had brought up stripping Brooks of his committee assignments “in the vein of Steve King.”
McCarthy later grimaced over a tweet from Rep. Barry Moore (R-Ala.) commenting on a police shooting involving a Black police officer shooting a white female veteran.
“You know that doesn’t fit the narrative,” he tweeted, and then later deleted.
“Can’t they take their Twitter accounts away too?” McCarthy responded, a nod to Trump’s then-recent booting from the platform.
In a statement, Moore brushed off McCarthy’s comment.
“The RINOs engineering this story to promote their own selfish agenda won’t be around next year to prop up the Democrats’ destructive Big Government scheme, and Republicans will be more united than ever after taking back the House this November,” Moore said.
But McCarthy’s reservations in the days after Jan. 6 seem at odds with many of his actions since.
He did not take any actions to strip Republican members from their committees.
Instead it was Democrats who booted far-right Republicans from their posts, including Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) for tweeting an animated video of him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) for endorsing conspiracy theories, racist dogma and violence against Democratic politicians.
That shift from McCarthy comes as he is determined to remain the leader of the Republican Caucus, an even more coveted job if Republicans are able to retake control of the House.
When asked Tuesday if McCarthy was worried the latest tape hurts his chance of maintaining the gavel, he simply replied, “nope.”
Mychael Schnell contributed.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism