By Moira Warburton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top US House Republican Kevin McCarthy told colleagues he feared members of his party, including Representatives Matt Gaetz and Mo Brooks, would put other lawmakers at risk with their comments following the assault on the US Capitol.
McCarthy on a call with other Republican leaders days after the Jan. 6, 2021, riot expressed his about comments made by members closely aligned with Donald Trump after the then-president’s supporters stormed the Capitol, according to audio obtained by the New York Times.
Brooks addressed the rally that led to the assault on Jan. 6, and Gaetz went on national television to namecheck Republicans who had criticized former President Donald Trump in his effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
“Calling out other members, that stuff’s got to stop,” McCarthy said in a recording of the call published by the Times. “Tension is too high, the country is too crazy. I don’t want to look back and think we caused something and someone got hurt.”
Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, suggested Gaetz’s comments could be illegal, according to the Times.
The offices of McCarthy, Scalise, Gaetz and Brooks did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The newspaper quoted Brooks on Tuesday as dismissing the criticism, saying “Kevin McCarthy spoke before knowing the facts.”
The audio was obtained through reporting for a book by Times reporters Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin.
McCarthy suggested on the call he would do more to keep his members in line, but he ultimately has not regulated Republican House members who he said put other lawmakers in jeopardy.
If Republicans win back the House in November’s midterm elections, McCarthy is widely expected to make a bid for speaker, a role for which he would need the support of far right Republican House members.
McCarthy last week initially denied part of the Times’ reporting on his conversations following the riot. The paper responded by releasing audio of his phone calls with fellow Republicans.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)