House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was facing furious backlash Sunday after he joked it would be “hard not to hit” Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a gavel if Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections next year. “I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel. It will be hard not to hit her with it, but I will bang it down” McCarthy said, according to audio posted to Twitter by a Main Street Nashville reporter. The crowd burst out laughing.
McCarthy made the comments after members of Tennessee’s Republican congressional delegations handed him an oversized gavel with the words “Fire Pelosi” on it during the Tennessee Republican Party’s annual Statesman’s Dinner fundraiser on Saturday. McCarthy’s words came at the end of a week in which he repeatedly clashed with Pelosi over mask mandates. Pelosi called McCarthy a “moron” for opposing the required use of face masks in the House.
Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, was quick to criticize the remarks. “A threat of violence to someone who was a target of a #January6th assassination attempt from your fellow Trump supporters is irresponsible and disgusting,” Hammill tweeted. He was hardly the only Democrat to criticize the remarks as several lawmakers condemned McCarthy for his words and demanded he apologize. “Don’t you think America has had enough political violence?” tweeted Rep. Ted Lieu of California. “You need to apologize for your statement, or resign.” Rep. Eric Swalwell, also of California, said McCarthy “needs to resign” after his statement. Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan said that it was just that type of language that “led to violence and death at the United States Capitol.” After the Capitol Riot, “This behavior is intolerable,” Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island tweeted. “Violence against women is no laughing matter,” tweeted Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York.