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House Republicans give McCarthy standing ovation, brush off tapes

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) got a standing ovation in a Wednesday House GOP conference meeting after he addressed leaked recordings of his comments in the aftermath of Jan. 6, according to members and sources in the room.  

The action from McCarthy’s colleagues marks the clearest symbol yet that the revelation may not hurt his chances at taking the Speaker’s gavel if Republicans win the House. 

McCarthy told members that the damning quotes from the Jan. 10, 2021, leadership call, during which he said he would suggest former President Trump resign if impeached and wondered if GOP members could be kicked off social media, were simply the leaders speculating on different scenarios. 

“He just said that we were going to lay out different things of what could be,” said Rep. Robert Aderholt (Ala.). “At this point, you know, I take his word for it.” 

The message during the Wednesday meeting was that Republicans need to keep pressing forward with what they’re doing to win control of the chamber after the election. 

Even the conference’s most conservative members said that their constituents are more concerned about high food and gas prices rather than what McCarthy said, and saw news of McCarthy’s comments as an attempt to divide the conference.  

Several members added that they had not listened to the tapes. 

“This is a distraction, folks. Come on. This is simply a distraction by the left trying to drive a wedge in a very unified Republican Party and a very unified conference,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk (Ga.). 

Distrust of the press also fed into willingness to not fault McCarthy for the comments.  

Rep. Glenn Grothman (Wis.) said that he had not listened to the audio, and warned that not everything in the newspaper can be believed. 

“Unless you’re a member of the press, nobody gives a damn about Jan. 6,” Grothman said. 

Not every member was willing to completely brush the tapes under the rug, though. 

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) said that she spoke in the conference meeting, and hoped to see McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (La.) apologize for some of their comments about Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) 

“We all need to be accountable for our words. I’ve had to do that before. And that we need to apologize when we say something wrong,” Greene said. 

Greene said that said it was “hurtful” to hear McCarthy suggest members be removed from social media, but said his team has been helpful in assisting her with Twitter after her personal account was banned from the platform. 

“A lot of this stuff is just drama that the American people don’t care about,” Greene said. 

Gaetz was less forgiving, and said he confronted Scalise in the meeting asking for reasoning behind his comment that calling Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) “anti-Trump” was illegal. 

“He didn’t have one. It was pathetic,” Gaetz told The Hill.  

The New York Times published audio recordings on Tuesday that featured McCarthy and Scalise airing concerns about comments made by some conservative lawmakers in the days following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. 

McCarthy said Gaetz was “putting people in jeopardy” with his remarks following the riot. He was particularly concerned with comments the Florida Republican made about Cheney, according to the Times. She had already taken heat from Trump supporters after being critical of the then-president. 

“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,” McCarthy added. 

Scalise took matters a step further, suggesting that Gaetz’s comment may have been illicit. 

“It’s potentially illegal what he’s doing,” the No. 2 House Republican said, according to the recordings.  

Other lawmakers mentioned on the call were Reps. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), Barry Moore (R-Ala.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas). 

Moore, unlike Gaetz, did not express anger at the comments about himself. 

“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 in a statement. 

Tags Capitol riot Jan. 6 insurrection Kevin McCarthy Marjorie Taylor Greene Matt Gaetz McCarthy New York Times recordings Steve Scalise

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