WASHINGTON — Democrats blasted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for saying “it will be hard to not hit” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a gavel if he becomes speaker.
McCarthy, R-Calif., made the comments Saturday night at a Tennessee Republican Party fundraiser, where he was handed an oversized gavel by members of the state’s Republican members of Congress.
“I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel. … It’ll be hard not to hit her with it,” he said, according to audio posted on Twitter by Main Street Nashville.
A spokesman for McCarthy said he was “obviously joking.”
McCarthy and Pelosi, D-Calif., have been feuding over appointments to the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and the reinstatement of a mask mandate in the House after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance.
McCarthy and other Republican members have spoken out against the rules, and many are refusing to wear masks. Pelosi called McCarthy a “moron” last week over his comments that the new requirement wasn’t supported by science.
McCarthy responded by telling reporters, “Well, if she’s so brilliant, can she tell me where the science in the building changes between the House and the Senate?” — referring to the lack of a mandate in the latter chamber.
In response to McCarthy’s gavel remarks, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, tweeted, “A threat of violence to someone who was a target of a #January6th assassination attempt from your fellow Trump supporters is irresponsible and disgusting.”
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., demanded an apology, saying, “Violence against women is no laughing matter.”
And Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., went further, saying McCarthy should resign.
Following the CDC’s announcement of the new mask guidance last week, the attending physician of Congress, Dr. Brian Monahan, said in an alert to House members that people are required to wear masks again inside the chamber and office buildings and at committee meetings. He sent a similar letter to Senate leaders recommending that senators and staff members wear masks indoors on Capitol Hill.
Leigh Ann Caldwell
Leigh Ann Caldwell is an NBC News correspondent.
Teaganne Finn is a political reporter for NBC News.
Haley Talbot is an associate producer in the NBC News Washington bureau.