ABC congressional reporter Rachel Scott is trying to ask House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy about the Republican National Committee’s decision to censure two members of his conference. McCarthy is, um, running — or at least briskly walking — away.
McCarthy tells Scott to make an appointment with his office and that it is “not good” for him to answer questions in the hallway.
(Sidebar: Answering questions in the hallways and outside of the House and Senate chambers is de rigueur for members of Congress and those that cover them. And as Scott notes, McCarthy himself did so earlier in the day.)
McCarthy’s avoidance of Scott is a telling reminder of just how much the RNC’s move to censure GOP Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, as well as describe what happened on January 6, 2021, as “legitimate political discourse,” has split the party in recent days.
On the same day that McCarthy was avoiding Scott’s question, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was blasting the RNC for its move. “The issue is whether or not the RNC should be sort of singling out members of our party who may have different views from the majority,” McConnell said. “That’s not the job of the RNC.”
Of the January 6 insurrection, McConnell said: “We all were here; we saw what happened. It was a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election from one administration to the next. That’s what it was.”
McCarthy had defended the use of the phrase “legitimate political discourse,” and noted of January 6: “Anybody who broke in and caused damage, that was not called for. Those people, we’ve said from the very beginning, should be in jail.”
The split on the RNC’s censure of Cheney and Kinzinger is indicative of a broader divide within the party that has emerged in the wake of the 2020 election.
On one side stands McConnell, who spoke out bluntly about Trump’s culpability for the events of January 6.
“There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day,” McConnell said in February 2021. “The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their President.”
On the other side stands McCarthy who, after initially admitting in January 2021 that Trump “bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters” has done his best to memory-hole the entire day (and its aftermath).
Regarding a reportedly contentious phone call between himself and Trump, McCarthy said in April 2021: “What I talked to President Trump about, I was the first person to contact him when the riots was going on. He didn’t see it. What he ended the call was saying — telling me, he’ll put something out to make sure to stop this. And that’s what he did, he put a video out later.”
The image of McCarthy running away from a reporter asking him about January 6 then is fitting. McCarthy has been running away from his initial reaction to that day for the better part of a year.