House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) claimed Monday that he did not lie last week when he knowingly denied a true story.
The New York Times reported that McCarthy was so angry with President Donald Trump for instigating the January 6, 2021 riot on Capitol Hill that the senator said he would tell Trump to step down. McCarthy then denied the story, only for reporters to prove it with a recording of his remarks.
In his first interview since the story broke, McCarthy dodged a question about his private suggestion that Trump should step down by noting that he never acted on it.
“I never told the president to step down,” McCarthy said during a Fox News live interview from Eagle Pass, Texas, where a Republican delegation had traveled to highlight border security. “It was a conversation we had about upcoming storylines.”
McCarthy then pivoted to the border. “Our border is not secure,” he said, citing statistics on attempted border crossings and fentanyl.
But Fox News reporter Bill Melugin persisted, asking McCarthy if he had been lying when he called the Times story “false and misguided” even though it turned out to be accurate.
McCarthy responded by suggesting he was simply denying directly telling Trump to step down.
“What was brought to me was that I called the president to say that — to resign,” McCarthy said. “I never called the president to say ‘resign’. He and I have a really good relationship as we go through.
But no one has ever claimed that McCarthy told Trump to quit. The story was that McCarthy told members of the House Republican leadership team on January 10, 2021 that he could call the president and tell him to step down rather than face possible impeachment and impeachment.
“I think that will pass, and it would be my recommendation that you resign,” he said he would tell Trump, according to the recording.
McCarthy suggests that Times reporters told him before the story ran that he would say he told the president to step down. But he still called the story “completely untrue and untrue” even after it came out, meaning he knew it depicted him talking to his colleagues, not Trump.
The California Republican may have made a truthful statement about Monday’s entire episode – when he said he had a “good relationship” with Trump. The ex-president has made it clear he appreciates how McCarthy went to such lengths to stay in his good graces after blaming Trump for the riot.
“I think it’s all a big compliment, frankly,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal Friday.