(WASHINGTON) — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., attempted to downplay the tumultuous week in the Republican conference on Friday, acknowledging only that some of his hard-right members distract from the GOP midterm message in their feuds with Democrats and each other but not condemning the anti-Muslim rhetoric from his member that set off the most recent controversies.
“It’s things we would not want to deal with,” he said of the controversies over the last few weeks surrounding comments and social media posts from Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona.
“It’s [distracting from] things the American people want to focus on: stopping inflation, gas prices and others,” he said. “Anything that deviates from that causes problems.”
The infighting this week began when Boebert’s remarks that likened Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., to a terrorist first appeared on social media. Boebert tweeted an apology to “anyone in the Muslim community I offended” but refused Omar’s request to make a direct public apology to her.
“She apologized publicly, she apologized personally,” McCarthy suggested of Boebert’s comments, defending the lawmaker.
According to both Omar and Boebert, Omar hung up on Boebert in their private phone call because, Omar said, she refused to apologize directly and Bobert, instead, demanded she apologize for “anti-American” sentiments.
McCarthy did not specifically address the content of Boebert’s bigoted remarks that set off the exchange.
The second feud of the week broke out soon after between Greene and Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., a freshman who has loudly and repeatedly criticized some of her far-right colleagues.
After Mace condemned Boebert’s remarks in a CNN interview, Greene referred to her as “trash” and a “RINO” or “Republican in name only,” calling her “pro-abort” because Mace, a rape survivor, supports access to abortion in cases of rape and incest.
Mace responded on Twitter with taunting emojis to Greene, calling her “crazy” and “insane.” The feud continued even after McCarthy met with both women in private: Greene claimed to have spoken with former President Donald Trump about supporting a primary challenger against Mace next year.
The escalating series of attacks left moderate Republicans grumbling and worried that McCarthy’s refusal to publicly condemn his far-right members’ antics could further embolden them and inject more chaos into the midterms and hurt Republicans’ increasingly likely chances of taking the House next year.
McCarthy, who needs to keep both wings of his party happy to win the speaker’s gavel next year, had a different take.
“We’re going to be quite fine,” he predicted brightly.
McCarthy’s press conference comes hours after more than 40 House Democrats called for Boebert to be removed from her committee assignments “following her Islamophobic comments and incitement of anti-Muslim animus.”
“There must be consequences for vicious workplace harassment and abuse that creates an environment so unsafe for colleagues and staff that it invites death threats against them,” said the statement from Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, Congressional Asian Pacific American Chair Judy Chu, D-Calif., Congressional Equality Caucus Chair David Cicilline, D-R.I., and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., and signed by 36 other members of the Progressive Caucus.
If the House does take action against Bobert, it would follow Green and Gosar being stripped from their committee assignments, as well as Gosar becoming the first congressional lawmaker to be censured in more than a decade last month after he tweeted an edited Japanese cartoon depicting violence against Democrats.
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