Washington — GOP Rep. Tim Burchett accused former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of elbowing him in the back in a Capitol Hill hallway on Tuesday in retaliation for Burchett voting to oust him from the role last month.
“Kevin McCarthy walked by and he elbowed me in the kidneys as he walked by,” Burchett told reporters Tuesday. “Kind of caught me off guard.”
The Tennessee Republican connected the alleged incident to his vote to remove McCarthy from the speakership last month after McCarthy depended on Democratic votes to avoid a government shutdown.
“Four-hundred-thirty-five of us. Eight of us voted against it,” he said when asked whether the alleged elbowing could have been an accident. “And the chances of him walking beside me and giving me an elbow in the back? Come on.”
An NPR reporter was interviewing Burchett at the Capitol after the GOP’s conference meeting when the incident occurred. The reporter, Claudia Grisales, said McCarthy shoved Burchett as he passed them in a hallway.
“I thought it was a joke, it was not. And a chase ensued,” Grisales wrote.
NPR later posted audio of the confrontation. Burchett said, “Why’d you elbow me in the back, Kevin? Hey Kevin, you got any guts?” McCarthy can be heard saying, “I didn’t elbow you in the back.”
Burchett said he chased after McCarthy because he “didn’t know what was going on.”
“I see him scurrying away, and so I just followed in pursuit,” he said, adding that he thought the action was “100% on purpose.”
When he confronted McCarthy, Burchett said the California Republican acted like he didn’t know what he was talking about.
Burchett told McCarthy, “You got no guts. … What kind of chicken move is that? You’re pathetic man, you are so pathetic.”
“He’s just not telling the truth,” Burchett told reporters later, calling him a “bully.” “It’s unfortunate it’s going be a sad asterisk beside his career.”
He said he didn’t plan to take any action against McCarthy and didn’t expect leadership to do anything about it.
McCarthy denied hitting Burchett, telling reporters later that “if I were to hit somebody, they would know I hit them.” McCarthy said they could have bumped shoulders but he “did not kidney punch him.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz, who led the effort to oust McCarthy as speaker, called on the House Ethics Committee to investigate the alleged behavior.
“This Congress has seen a substantial increase in breaches of decorum unlike anything we have seen since the pre-Civil War era,” the Florida Republican’s complaint said. “I myself have been a victim of outrageous conduct on the House floor as well, but nothing like an open and public assault on a Member, committed by another Member. The rot starts at the top.”
When asked about the complaint, McCarthy responded, “I think Ethics is a good place for Gaetz.”
Ellis Kim contributed reporting.