Kevin McCarthy's nasty Benghazi hangover: Speaker-in-waiting torched by his own party for letting the mask slip

Even Jeb! piles on, blaming McCarthy's honesty as "the problem with Washington right now"

By Sophia Tesfaye
October 1, 2015 8:50PM (UTC)
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FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2014 file photo, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., departs an orientation luncheon for newly-elected GOP members of the House, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The first Republican-controlled Congress to confront President Barack Obama takes charge on Tuesday, and GOP leaders are planning an agenda that focuses on cutting the budget and bolstering the economy _ and oh yes, avoiding self-inflicted calamities that make voters wonder if the party is capable of governing. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) (AP)

With Hillary Clinton set to testify before the House Select Committee on Benghazi in weeks to face a barrage of hostile questions about her use of personal email while at the State Department and her correspondences with associates like Sidney Blumenthal, Republicans faced a gut punch from one of their own when Kevin McCarthy, likely John Boehner's successor as speaker, insinuated that the biggest accomplishment by House Republicans this session was the formation of the longest running special congressional investigation in American history to derail the presidential campaign of the former secretary of state.

Now, instead of cleaning up after McCarthy's mess, many Republicans have turned their backs on the would-be House Speaker, repudiating his comments in effort to hold on to some semblance of integrity.


Here is what McCarthy said to Fox News' Sean Hannity earlier this week:

Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.

Republicans, having realized that McCarthy's comments undermined their years long campaign to prop up a political crusade as a legitimate fact-finding mission, barely bothered with the damage control, opting instead to blast McCarthy for his "gaffe."

At least one presidential candidate weighed in on the controversy. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush blamed McCarthy's boast as "the problem with Washington right now":


Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Rep. Jason Chaffetz called the admission an "absolutely inappropriate statement," and called on McCarthy to apologize during a CNN interview on Wednesday.

"I think he should apologize. I think he should withdraw it. I think it’s an absolute [sic] inaccurate statement as to what we’re doing and have done on the work on Benghazi,"Chaffetz said.

Kentucky Republican Thomas Massie wasn't any softer on McCarthy, blaming his admission with tarnishing the reputation of the committee. “I think [McCarthy] should restore this institution, and stating that committee hearings are being held for political gain does not restore this institution, it’s part of what’s wrong with this institution,” Massie told Roll Call.


It “diminishes Chairman Gowdy’s work to message that way to the media,” Massie said, referring to South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy.

Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, who is running for majority whip, was a little gentler, suggesting he would have chosen his words differently. "I would not have drawn that conclusion myself to say that publicly, because I don’t see that. I think the reason that Ms. Clinton is having problems is because she vacillates on providing information and telling the truth,” Sessions said. “I don’t agree with it.”


McCarthy had already been facing a hostile welcome from the right-wing base of his party as he sought to replace current House Speaker John Boehner after he resigns from Congress at the end of this month.

Conservative talk radio host Mark Levin came out early in his opposition to McCarthy's ascension to the Speakership, slamming the Majority Leader as "Eric Cantor with ten less IQ points."

Led by Georgia Republican Paul Broun, a group of conservative firebrands in the House have already mounted a "Fire Kevin McCarthy” campaign before the first votes to replace Boehner have even been cast.


For his part, Boehner did his best not to pile on McCarthy, releasing a statement denying any political motives for the committee's formation or investigative tenor, deflecting blame to Clinton and President Obama for doing "everything they can to delay, derail and stop" the investigation.

A spokesman for Gowdy and the Republicans on the Benghazi committee did little to rescue McCarthy from himself. "People view the Benghazi committee through whatever lens or spin they choose; meanwhile, the Benghazi committee is focused on, and our work is driven by, the facts," said spokesman Jamal Ware.

But it looks like McCarthy isn't the only GOPer with a penchant for truth-telling this week. As TPM flagged today, Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn told MSNBC's Jose Diaz-Balart that the "good politics" revelation of Clinton's email use that came of the Benghazi committee's investigation was just a fortunate coincidence.


"Now, there’s that old saying about good policy always making good politics when you’re doing the right things for the right reasons, then that is going to be something that makes good politics,” Blackburn said:

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Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's Deputy Politics Editor and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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