July 15, 2024

The California Republican congressman, who was ousted as speaker, had a physical altercation shortly after the Nov. 14 morning meeting of the House Republican Conference with Rep. Tim Burchett (R.-Tenn.), who was one of the eight House Republicans to vote with every House Democrat to end his tenure.

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NPR Capitol Hill reporter Claudia Grisales, in a series of X-posts, gave this account, which has been edited for continuity and punctuation.  

While talking to Rep. Tim Burchett after the GOP conference meeting, former Speaker McCarthy 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!?”

Burchett then looked back at me and said, “Jerk,” referring to McCarthy. I asked if he had done that before, Burchett said “No.” That’s when the chase ensued. Burchett took off after McCarthy and his detail. I chased behind with my mic. Burchett 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. You got no guts, you did so–the reporter said it right there, what kind of chicken move is that? You’re pathetic man, you are so pathetic.” 

Burchett starts to walk away from McCarthy, tells me, “What a jerk,” and then yells back; ‘You need security Kevin!'”

Burchett tells me that’s the first point of “communication” with McCarthy since Burchett voted for McCarthy’s ouster as speaker last month: “That’s just it” for communication since ouster vote, “He’s just a jerk. He’s just a childish little.” Burchett adds: “Did you just see that?” he asks in disbelief. I’m stunned, too.”

[Burchett] says he won’t follow up with McCarthy on what happened, “He’s on a downhill spiral. He just, that was pretty gutless of him. I’m disappointed in his, in him.”

Burchett reiterates he hasn’t talked to McCarthy since he voted against him. “No, no that was it. That’s it. He’s got $17 million to work against me. And he’s just a — he should have kept his word. I think that just showed what he’s about and it’s unfortunate.”

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Stephen K. Bannon, on his Nov. 14 “The War Room” program, interrupted his discussion with former Trump administration official Kash Patel to relay news that was coming in off his phone.

“I think they actually came to–I’m not saying it came to fisticuffs–but it came to elbows and shoving,” Bannon said. 

Patel asked Bannon if either man knew how to throw a fist.

“Well, Burchett, I think’s an old Tennessee guy. He definitely does. Or pick up a fricking stick and hit you upside the head,” Bannon said. “I think McCarthy shoved him or elbowing, and then Burchett went after him chasing him down the hall and went after him.”

The leader of the War Room Posse said he expected someone to have video of the incident.

“There’s especially some footage, we’re getting into all this, but tempers are running a little hot first on McCarthy,” he said. 

Bannon then said McCarthy was still causing trouble inside the Republican House Conference and his successor, Speaker Mike Johnson (R.-La.). “He’s over there, and he’s putting a knife in everybody because he’s saying: “Hey, all you’re doing now is putting up another CR that was just like you threw me out for, and you got your Christian guy there and you’re not doing anything.”

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In an interview with CNN, McCarthy said he is considering a return to public life, and he is still bitter about how Rep. Matt Gaetz (R.-Fla.) led the effort to remove McCarthy from his speakership — throwing shade at his nemesis regarding an ethics problem Gaetz has repeatedly denied.

McCarthy suggested that Gaetz had called for the vote for McCarthy’s removal – and later backed Mike Johnson’s ascension as speaker – simply to quash the ethics probe.

“If the Ethics Committee never does anything to Gaetz, then Gaetz was successful in stopping probably what rightfully should come to him,” McCarthy said.

While McCarthy called for Gaetz to face “consequences,” accusing him of having violated internal House GOP Conference rules by calling the ouster vote without the requisite support from Republicans, Johnson doesn’t seem to be going in that direction.

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