Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was put on the spot by Fox News host Maria Bartiromo over the accusation that he threw an elbow at a fellow Republican lawmaker this week, an incident that sparked concerns about a loss of civility in the halls of Congress.
The former Speaker of the House appeared on “Fox News Sunday” for an interview that covered plenty of territory, but first things first, Bartiromo wanted an answer about the Tuesday incident when Rep. Tim Burchett alleged that the California Republican had given him a “clean shot to the kidneys” as he passed him by, drawing an angry response from the colleague who then chased him down the hall.
Right off the bat, Bartiromo popped the question, “Did you elbow Tim Burchett in the ribs or in the back?”
(Video: Fox News)
“No, not at all,” replied an amused McCarthy. “This is a narrow hallway. We were in a conference with 200 people. You’ve got the press all standing there, walking out, talking to other members, just don’t take my word for it, talk to the members who were next to me and behind me.”
“If anyone got bumped, it was not intentional,” he added, playing the alleged assault off as incidental contact. “Just a crowded hallway where everybody’s walking out at one time.”
“Nobody got punched, nobody got hit,” laughed the ex-speaker, “and some people wanna make press out of nothing but that’s exactly what transpired.”
“So you think he’s just making it up, then?” Bartiromo asked, putting him on the spot over whether he was accusing Burchett of lying.
“No no,” McCarthy replied. “If somebody got bumped because of a narrow hallway, it happens all the time, it was not intentional, I know no one got punched in the process. You can talk to the members behind me and around me.”
What he didn’t mention is that another eyewitness who would have no reason to lie, NPR reporter Claudia Grisales posted her account to X, formerly Twitter, shortly after it happened.
Grisales wrote that he had “NEVER seen this on Capitol Hill,” going on to describe the tense situation in a series of posts to the platform. “While talking to @RepTimBurchett after the GOP conference meeting, former @SpeakerMcCarthy walked by with his detail and McCarthy shoved Burchett. Burchett lunged towards me. I thought it was a joke, it was not. And a chase ensued….”
Burchett’s back was to McCarthy and his detail walking by in the hallway, then the lunge.
Burchett responded jokingly as McCarthy kept walking, “Sorry Kevin didn’t mean to elbow –” then seriously yelled, “why’d you elbow me in the back Kevin?! Hey Kevin, you got any guts!?”
— Claudia Grisales (@cgrisales) November 14, 2023
“Burchett’s back was to McCarthy and his detail walking by in the hallway, then the lunge,” she continued. “Burchett responded jokingly as McCarthy kept walking, ‘Sorry Kevin didn’t mean to elbow –‘ then seriously yelled, ‘why’d you elbow me in the back Kevin?! Hey Kevin, you got any guts!?'”
She provided additional commentary on the incident.
@RepTimBurchett yelled after catching up to McCarthy, “Hey Kevin, why’d you walk behind me and elbow me in the back?”
KM: “I didn’t elbow you in the back.”
Burchett: “You got no guts, you did so, …the reporter said it right there, what kind of chicken move is that…”
— Claudia Grisales (@cgrisales) November 14, 2023
Later, CNN’s Manu Raju caught up with Burchett outside the Capitol.
News — Rep. Tim Burchett accuses Kevin McCarthy of a “sucker punch” to the kidneys and describes heated scene as he chased the former speaker down the hallway.
Said he’s the type of the guy who as a kid would “hide behind his mama’s skirt.”
McCarthy denies it was intentional pic.twitter.com/fBvOUxMb5z
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) November 14, 2023
“He is a bully with $17 million and a security detail. He is the type of guy that when you are a kid, he would throw a rock over the fence and run home to hide behind his mama’s skirt,” the congressman said of McCarthy, adding “I just don’t expect a guy who was at one time three steps away from the White House to hit you with a sucker punch in the hallway.”
Interestingly, former GOP congressman Adam Kinzinger also claimed that McCarthy had gotten physical with him – not once, but on two occasions.
Kinzinger says McCarthy “shoulder checked” him twice while walking past him pic.twitter.com/20nR7087TC
— Acyn (@Acyn) November 17, 2023
“Yes, Twice,” Kinzinger told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “So imagine just I’m kind of standing in the back of the House, leaning over that gold railing just kind of watching what’s going on, talking to people that walked by, and I get WHAM! I get shoulder-checked. Never had that happened on the floor of the House.”
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