House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday called on President Joe Biden to apologize for invoking fascism to describe the ideology of former President Donald Trump and his supporters.
McCarthy made the remarks during a prebuttal speech ahead of the President’s prime-time address later in the evening. The speech from the House GOP leader marks an effort to counter the President’s message – ahead of the 2022 midterms as Republicans fight to win back control of the House of Representatives.
“President Biden has chosen to divide, demean, and disparage his fellow Americans – Why? simply because they disagree with his policies,” McCarthy said in his speech. “That is not leadership.”
“When the President speaks tonight at Independence Hall, the first lines out of his mouth should be to apologize for slandering tens of millions of Americans as ‘fascists,’” McCarthy said.
Biden has likened the philosophy that underpins Trump and those who have stood by him to “semi-facism” – comments that Republicans have seized on to criticize the President.
“What we’re seeing now is either the beginning or the death knell of an extreme MAGA philosophy,” Biden recently told a group of Democratic donors at a private home in Maryland.
“It’s not just Trump,” he went on, “it’s the entire philosophy that underpins the – I’m going to say something: It’s like semi-fascism.”
McCarthy also used his remarks to broadly criticize Democratic control of Congress and the Biden White House, arguing that Americans are struggling and that Democrats are not delivering.
The House minority leader said in his speech he’d spoken to Americans who felt Biden and Democrats’ policies were making their lives harder. He suggested a Republican majority in Congress could be the solution.
“What is clear to me and clear to you is that Washington and the White House aren’t listening. They just don’t get it,” he said. “Our best days are ahead of us not behind us. Our nation can flourish again and under a new historic Republican majority, it will. For the past two years have been a time of trial for Americans everywhere.”
He added: “In the past two years, Joe Biden has launched an assault on the soul of America, on its people, on its laws, on its most sacred values. He has launched an assault on our democracy. His policies have severely wounded America’s soul, diminished America’s spirit and betrayed America’s trust.”
McCarthy spoke about Republican stances on immigration, drug addiction, Covid-19 mandates, and education, among other issues.
At one point, McCarthy addressed democracy in the United States, an issue Democrats often bring up against Republicans in relation to Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election results.
McCarthy also suggested the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property was politically motivated, which the Department of Justice has repeatedly denied.
“Joe Biden often says our democracy is under threat. He’s right, but not for the reason he thinks,” McCarthy said. “Joe Biden and a politicized DOJ launched a raid on the home of his top political rival, Donald Trump. That is an assault on democracy.”
McCarthy concluded his speech offering Republicans’ messaging ahead of the 2022 midterms.
“Republicans have a plan for a new direction that will get our country back on track. Our plan is our commitment to America,” he said. “If Republicans are given the opportunity and honor to have a majority in the House, we will work day and night, hour after hour for you, the people.”
Biden is expected to use his speech to reinforce the offensive against extremism in the Republican Party that he has recently made a focus of his messaging as he seeks to tie GOP candidates to his White House predecessor, framing the midterms as a second round against Trump.
The key battleground state of Pennsylvania is serving as the backdrop for both speeches. McCarthy’s speech took place in Biden’s hometown of Scranton, while Biden will speak from Philadelphia.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this story.