On Thursday morning, The New York Times reported that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had told colleagues in the aftermath of the January 6 attack on the US Capitol that he was going to counsel then-President Donald Trump to resign.
On Thursday afternoon, McCarthy issued a blanket denial that he had ever said such a thing – calling The New York Times’ reporting “totally false and wrong.”
On Thursday night, the two New York Times reporters and authors of the forthcoming book “This Will Not Pass” – Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin – provided audio of McCarthy saying, well, exactly what they had reported him saying about Trump and resignation.
McCarthy hasn’t said anything publicly yet. But CNN’s Melanie Zanona and Lauren Fox reported that Trump and McCarthy spoke by phone Thursday night and that the former President wasn’t upset. Zanona also wrote that one GOP leadership member had said that “there is a feeling as long as Trump is fine, McCarthy can manage any outrage from those on his right flank.”
Which suggests McCarthy could well survive this incident – politically speaking – and that his long-term quest to be speaker of the House may not be derailed.
That said, there’s more than just politics here. Because this is what we now know about McCarthy, the top-ranking Republican in the House: He flat-out lied about comments he had made about Trump immediately following the January 6 attacks.
That has to matter.
Yes, I know we live in a moment in which truth faces a daily assault – especially in the world of politics. And that McCarthy is a member of a party led by a man who said more than 30,000 false or misleading things during his four years in office, according to The Washington Post Fact Checker team.
But now, a man who wants to run the House was caught red-handed in a flat-out lie. There’s no finessing it. McCarthy said the Times was wrong. They had the receipts.
Which has to raise another question among McCarthy’s Republican colleagues: What else has he, or will he, lie about?
At root, politicians’ success – Trump excepted – tends to be built on a notion among both their constituents and their colleagues that they can be trusted. That you might not always like what they say, but you can be sure what they say is the truth.
The Point: That can no longer be said about McCarthy. And that has to matter to his political future.