Politics /

McCarthy Denies Shoving Burchett: ‘I Guess Our Shoulders Hit’

The California Congressman said ‘I didn’t even know something transpired’

Rep. Kevin McCarthy denied widespread claims that he shoved or assaulted fellow congressman Tim Burchett at the Capitol when confronted by reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

“A reporter was interviewing Burchett or something, I guess our shoulders hit,” he said. “Because Burchett runs up to me after, I didn’t even know what he was talking about. … I did not run and hit the guy, I did not kidney punch him, I did not shove him, anything like that.”

“You didn’t shove?” one reporter asked.

“No! We were walking through— You were at HC-5,” McCarthy said, referring to the Hospitality Room in the Capitol. “You guys line up along the way there, it was [Rep.] Bruce Westerman and I walking out. … I didn’t know it was [Burchett] or something, I guess our elbows hit as I walked by. I didn’t punch anybody.”

McCarthy’s comments come after NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales reported on X, formerly Twitter, that she witnessed McCarthy shove Burchett from behind during her interview with the Tennessee representative.

“I have NEVER seen this on Capitol Hill,” she wrote in a Tuesday morning thread.

As McCarthy continued walking, Burchett jokingly called out, “Sorry Kevin didn’t mean to elbow—” before switching to a serious tone and yelling, “Why’d you elbow me in the back Kevin?! Hey Kevin, you got any guts!?”

When Burchett chased after McCarthy and asked again why the congressman elbowed him in the back, McCarthy said, “I didn’t elbow you in the back.”

“You got no guts, you did so,” Burchett said. “What kind of chicken move is that? You’re pathetic man, you are so pathetic.”

An audio recording of the exchange has been made available on X.

Afterward, Burchett told Grisales that the exchange was the first point of communication between the two lawmakers since Burchett voted to oust McCarthy from his position as Speaker of the House.

“He’s on a downhill spiral,” Burchett said. “He just, that was pretty gutless of him. I’m disappointed in his, in him.”

When asked by reporters Tuesday afternoon if there was any “bad blood” between the lawmakers, McCarthy said, “No.”

“I guess it happened because when I was walking back further, somebody was interviewing me or talking to me and he comes running up, like, ‘Why did you hit me?’ or something like that,” he told reporters. “I said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ I didn’t even know something transpired.”

A member of the press said a reporter claimed there was plenty of room for McCarthy to pass by, but the California representative intentionally hit Burchett.

“There is, OK, not a place, show me a reporter who saw that,” he said, at which point someone named Grisales.

“Call Bruce Westerman,” McCarthy said. “Ask Bruce Westerman. No, I did not go up— If I were to hit somebody, they would know I hit ‘em.”

“He said he was in pain that you hit him so hard in the kidneys,” another reporter said, referencing Burchett’s comment that McCarthy gave him “a clean shot to the kidney.”

“Oh, come on, now,” McCarthy said with a smile. “That’s far from true.”

One reporter mentioned that retired Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger had written about McCarthy shoving him on two occasions.

“When have I pushed him?” McCarthy asked.

“Kinzinger said he was in the back railing once and you elbowed him and pushed him,” the reporter said.

“You said Gaetz,” McCarthy said, apparently mishearing the reporter, who clarified he said Kinzinger.

“Oh, I don’t know about Kinzinger,” McCarthy said.

Shortly after reports of the incident, Rep. Matt Gaetz filed an ethics complaint against McCarthy, whom the Florida representative spearheaded an effort to oust from his former position of Speaker of the House.

“This Congress has seen a substantial increase in breaches of decorum unlike anything we have seen since the pre-Civil War era,” Gaetz wrote in his complaint. “I myself have been a victim of outrageous conduct on the House floor as well, but nothing like an open and public assault on a Member, committed by another Member. The rot starts at the top.”

Gaetz cited the first rule of the Code of Official Conduct, which mandates Congress members to behave in a manner that reflects the creditability of the House.

When McCarthy was asked to comment on Gaetz’s complaint, he said, “Oh good. I think Ethics is a good place for Gaetz to be.”

In an interview with CNN shortly after the incident, Burchett said, “[McCarthy’s] the type of guy that, when you’re a kid, would throw a rock over the fence and run home and hide behind his mama’s skirt. … That’s not the way we handle things in east Tennessee. If we have a problem with somebody, I’m gonna look ‘em in the eye.”

When asked to respond to Burchett’s comment, McCarthy said, “That’s not who I am.”

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