New York Times: Audio reveals McCarthy feared GOP lawmakers’ rhetoric would incite violence after Jan. 6
In the audio, the California Republican repeatedly lamented the inflammatory comments made by some GOP lawmakers in the wake of the attack on the US Capitol — a far different posturing from his efforts to downplay Republicans’ role in the insurgency. .
On January 10, 2021, McCarthy urged Republican leaders in a private call to monitor public statements by lawmakers, such as Representatives Mo Brooks of Alabama and Matt Gaetz of Florida, and alert him to any messages potentially dangerous.
“The country is too crazy,” McCarthy said, according to audio obtained by two New York Times reporters for their upcoming book, “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America’s Future.”
“I don’t want to look back and think we caused something or we missed something and someone got hurt. I don’t want to play politics with any of this.”
McCarthy did not respond to questions from reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday regarding the New York Times report. When asked if he feared it would hurt his chances of becoming president if Republicans won the House in the midterm elections, he replied, “No.”
The Republican leader had specifically taken issue with a television interview Gaetz gave attacking Republican Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming and other Republicans who criticized former President Donald Trump. “He puts people in danger,” McCarthy said of Gaetz, according to audio. “And he doesn’t have to do that. We saw what people would do in the Capitol, you know, and those people came prepared with a rope, with everything else.”
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise called Gaetz’s conduct “potentially illegal,” according to the Times. Scalise deflected questions about the report from The New York Times on Tuesday, lambasting the “liberal media” for reporting on the insurgency.
“I haven’t seen what they’re referring to. But it’s no surprise that the liberal media wants to keep talking about January 6, because they don’t want to focus on all the crises that President Biden has created, from inflation to gasoline prices at the border,” he told reporters.
Gaetz told CNN he had not seen the Times story.
Brooks, in response to the report, told CNN in a statement that “Kevin McCarthy spoke before he knew the facts.”
According to the audio, McCarthy became more pointed when an inflammatory tweet from GOP Rep. Barry Moore of Alabama about rioter Ashli Babbitt was read aloud during the call. “Can’t they also remove their Twitter accounts?” McCarthy asked.
His comments mark the latest example of a damning conversation he had in the aftermath of the January 6 revelation.
The California Republican is already facing criticism after separate audio clips revealed conflicting statements he made about Trump.
At a closed-door executive meeting on Tuesday night, McCarthy addressed the recent controversy, two sources familiar with the meeting told CNN.
After joking about whether anyone was recording it, McCarthy explained to his leadership team, as well as committee heads, that he never asked Trump to step down or brought the idea to the conference.
“Don’t let things like this divide us. We need to stick together,” McCarthy said in concluding his remarks.
This story was updated with additional information on Tuesday.
CNN’s Melanie Zanona and Lauren Fox contributed to this report.