The hits just keep on coming for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): On Tuesday, the New York Times published even more bombshell recordings of a call he had with other House GOP leaders on Jan. 10, 2021, about the Capitol insurrection and far-right lawmakers’ role in it.
The new tapes show how House GOP leadership had privately fretted over the rhetoric from extremist lawmakers before and after the attack. Coupled with subsequent inaction, the tapes represent another instance in which McCarthy privately fretted before faithfully siding with Trump again in public.
GOP Leaders Privately Admitted The Calls Were Coming From Inside The House
For the House Republican leadership, there was no way around it: Multiple members of their conference had stoked the fury that led to the Capitol insurrection with their bombastic rhetoric.
Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Mo Brooks (R-AL) were particularly volatile threats in McCarthy and Scalise’s eyes.
“He’s putting people in jeopardy,” McCarthy said of Gaetz. “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.”
House Minority Whipe Steve Scalise (R-LA), who was on the call, said what Gaetz was doing was “potentially illegal.”
The leaders were plainly aghast at the tweets from some of the lawmakers, especially those of Rep. Barry Moore (R-AL), who had posted a racist rant about the Capitol Police officer who shot Ashli Babbitt being “Black” while Babbitt was “white.”
“Oh man,” one of the call participants muttered when the tweet was read aloud on the call.
McCarthy Suggested Brooks Was Even Worse Than Trump
During the Jan. 10 call, McCarthy indicated that a member of his own conference possibly acted worse than Trump himself on Jan. 6.
The House GOP leader pointed specifically to Brooks’ fiery remarks at the Trump rally that preceded the Capitol attack in which the Alabama Republican declared that it was “the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.”
“You think the President deserves to be impeached for his comments?” McCarthy asked his fellow leaders rhetorically during the call. “That’s almost something that goes further than what the President said.”
McCarthy’s Tough Guy Talk Apparently Fizzled With Gaetz And Brooks In Addition To Trump
It’s well established at this point that McCarthy, for all his handwringing, ultimately chickened out of his private plan to urge President Donald Trump to resign in wake of the Jan. 6 attack. But apparently the GOP leader, who told fellow leaders on the Jan. 10 call that he would be “calling” Gaetz, ultimately never got around to having a talk with the Florida lawmaker or Brooks.
Gaetz indicated as much in his scathing response to the tapes on Tuesday, saying that McCarthy and Scalise “held views about President Trump and me that they shared on sniveling calls with Liz Cheney, not us.”
“This is the behavior of weak men, not leaders,” the Florida Republican said.
And Brooks told the New York Times that he didn’t recall McCarthy ever having a direct conversation with him about his remarks at the Trump rally.
Gaetz Ain’t Sorry
Gaetz’s response to the leaders’ worries was essentially: Yeah, you’re damn right I was incendiary.
“Folks know what I think because I tell them clearly, directly, as I did when I held the largest event in Wyoming political history (without a rodeo element) days after these recordings were taken,” Gaetz said in a statement on Tuesday, referring to the anti-Cheney rally he held in her home state near the end of January last year.
“While I was protecting President Trump from impeachment, they were protecting Liz Cheney from criticism,” he added.
GOP Leadership’s Now A Fox Target
Fox News host Tucker Carlson, the network’s most-watched personality, tore into McCarthy on Tuesday, particularly incensed by the California Republican’s comment about how Twitter ought to “take away” certain far-right lawmakers’ accounts.
“Those are the tape-recorded words of Congressman Kevin McCarthy, a man who in private turns out sounds like an MSNBC contributor,” Carlson ranted.
The Fox host called for not just McCarthy’s takedown, but for House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) too, warning that “unless conservatives get their act together right away,” McCarthy “or one of his highly liberal allies like Elise Stefanik” will likely become House speaker if the GOP takes back the House this fall.
“That would mean we would have a Republican Congress led by a puppet of the Democratic Party,” Carlson declared with a straight face.