Kevin McCarthy Accuses Matt Gaetz of Pursuing ‘Something Illegal’


On Sunday, former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy accused Representative Matt Gaetz of trying to get him “to do something illegal,” which he further claimed led to the motion to oust him from his speakership role last year.

McCarthy, a California Republican, served as speaker of the House from January to October of 2023, presiding over a razor-thin GOP majority and a caucus bitterly divided between more moderate members and those further to the right. Following a deal with Democratic members to get a temporary government funding bill passed, Gaetz, a Florida Republican, filed a motion to oust McCarthy from the speakership, leading to the first ouster of a sitting speaker by a floor vote during a session of Congress.

A similar motion to oust the current GOP speaker, Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana, was just filed by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, though she has characterized it as more of a warning after the passage of a $1.2 trillion government funding bill that she did not support.

During a Sunday appearance on CBS News’ Face the Nation, McCarthy was pressed on the potential similarities between this motion and the one from Gaetz that removed him from the office. The congressman argued that, based on his experiences with her, Greene’s disagreements might boil down to policy matters that can be discussed. The motion against him from Gaetz, however, he blamed on a personal matter and accused Gaetz of trying to get him to illegally shut down an ethics committee investigation.

mccarthy gaetz illegal accusation
Representative Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, speaks to Representative Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2023. McCarthy on Sunday reiterated accusations that…

Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

“The one thing I’ve always found, when you sit down with a member and talk to them, find out what their concerns are, especially when it’s based upon policy, you can solve that problem,” McCarthy said. “And I watched that with Marjorie, from the vote to speaker to the vote for the Fiscal Responsibility Act. There’s times she [had] a difference of opinion, and you sit down and find common ground.”

He continued: “Matt’s case was much different. It was about a personal thing that he had done, and that’s what he was trying to get something illegally stopped…I think the Ethics Committee, it was purely Matt coming to me, trying [to get] me to do something illegal to stop the Ethics Committee from moving forward [with] an investigation that was started long before I became speaker.”

Newsweek reached out to the offices of Gaetz and McCarthy via email for comment on Sunday afternoon.

The ethics matter McCarthy referred to pertains to an investigation into Gaetz dating back to 2021, which alleged that, according to The New York Times, “he engaged in sexual misconduct and illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use and accepted impermissible gifts under House rules, among other allegation.” He was also previously investigated by the Department of Justice (DOJ) over allegations that he trafficked and engaged in sex with a minor, but charges were not ultimately brought against him. Gaetz has asserted his innocence in all of these matters and dismissed them as efforts to smear him. While the probe was paused during the DOJ investigation, it remains active today.

After he was ousted from the speakership in October, McCarthy made the same accusation that Gaetz was driven by a personal vendetta after he declined to interfere with the ethics probe. The Florida lawmaker told CNN in response that his motion was due to McCarthy “breaking [his] word” with the funding bill.