Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) scolded Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) during a closed-door GOP conference meeting Thursday, telling the Florida Republican to sit down when he tried to interrupt McCarthy’s remarks.
The interaction came as House Republicans met for almost four hours to consider possible paths forward as the conference struggles to coalesce around a candidate for Speaker after Gaetz led a group of eight Republicans who joined with Democrats to oust McCarthy. The conference nominated Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) for the post, but he has failed on two floor votes to secure the gavel.
Lawmakers described the meeting as intense.
At one point, while speaking at the mics during the gathering, McCarthy mentioned Gaetz by name, according to a source in the room. Gaetz stood up to “kind of interrupt him and say something,” per a second source in the room.
McCarthy then shot back, according to the second source.
“Sit your ass down,” McCarthy said, according to the source, prompting Gaetz to “say something back.”
The second source said Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) “was ready to lunge across the room.”
McCarthy said he did not yell at Gaetz.
“I was at the mic, I was speaking and Matt Gaetz tried to interrupt,” McCarthy said. “I told him to sit down.”
“I think the entire conference screamed at him,” McCarthy added. “Listen, the whole country, I think, would scream at Matt Gaetz right now. Remember, it was the crazy eight led by Matt Gaetz and every single Democrat that put us into this situation.”
Gaetz, for his part, said he thought McCarthy “was yielding to me since he had mentioned me.”
“He gets his Irish up sometimes,” Gaetz added. “I’m not a very emotional person. I’m a lawyer by trade, not a baker, and so I’m used to the presentation of arguments and the listening of arguments without getting hot under the collar.”