Several Democrats are calling on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to apologize or resign after he said it would “be hard not to hit” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., with the gavel if he becomes speaker again.
McCarthy, who was the keynote speaker for the Tennessee GOP’s annual Statesmen’s Dinner on Saturday, was presented at the event with an oversize gavel. He then told members of the crowd that they would be invited to his swearing-in as House speaker if Republicans won back the House majority in 2022.
“More importantly, I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel,” McCarthy said to cheers. “It will be hard not to hit her with it.”
A Washington Post reporter who was covering the dinner confirmed McCarthy’s remarks. Main Street Nashville reporter Vivian Jones also posted audio of McCarthy’s comment on Twitter.
Democrats immediately denounced McCarthy’s remarks as misogynistic, “disgraceful” and “no laughing matter,” especially given that Pelosi was a target of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“A threat of violence to someone who was a target of a #January6th assassination attempt from your fellow Trump supporters is irresponsible and disgusting,” Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, tweeted Saturday.
Several Democrats demanded that McCarthy apologize, while others – including Reps. Eric Swalwell and Ted Lieu of California – said McCarthy should resign, linking such rhetoric to the political violence that was on display Jan. 6.
“There’s nothing funny about hitting Speaker Pelosi or any woman. Leader McCarthy is a failed leader,” Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., tweeted, adding that “nothing will get in the way of his ambitions – including joking about hitting a woman to excite his small base.”
“It’s no wonder Kevin McCarthy can’t control his caucus. He can’t even control his own misogyny,” Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., tweeted. “His language about assaulting @SpeakerPelosi is despicable and certainly undeserving of a gavel.”
McCarthy’s office did not respond to a request for comment Sunday.
Tensions between McCarthy and Pelosi have been rising in recent weeks, especially after Pelosi blocked two of McCarthy’s picks – Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Jim Banks, R-Ind. – from being appointed to the bipartisan committee to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection. McCarthy called Pelosi’s decision “unprecedented,” deemed her a “lame-duck speaker” and pulled all five of his choices for the committee. The pushback led Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who ultimately was chosen to serve on the bipartisan committee, to accuse McCarthy of attempting to block the investigation.
Last week, Pelosi reportedly called McCarthy “a moron” when told he thought the Capitol’s reinstated mask mandate was not based on science. (Hammill later said the audio of Pelosi supposedly calling McCarthy a moron was not of high enough quality to be verified but did “confirm that the speaker believes that saying a mask requirement is ‘not a decision based on science’ is moronic.”)
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The Washington Post’s Michael Scherer contributed to this report.