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Kevin McCarthy's ugly past resurfaces amid Jan 6 probe

The committee investigating insurrection sought McCarthy's phone records as the Internet dig up affair that derailed McCarthy's bid for speaker in 2015
UPDATED AUG 31, 2021
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during a press conference at the US Capitol on January 09, 2020, in Washington, DC (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during a press conference at the US Capitol on January 09, 2020, in Washington, DC (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is back in the news and is once again being trolled by social media. The Jan 6 committee has reportedly requested McCarthy's phone records from the day, because he may have possibly called Trump. The news spread like wildfire and reminded many users of McCarthy's last big scandal - the one in 2015 that derailed his bid for speaker of the House. With the 2022 midterms approaching and McCarthy posed to take the gavel from Nancy Pelosi should the GOP flip enough seats, the scandal has once again reared its ugly head.

McCarthy himself strongly believes he will replace Pelosi, even joking at a fundraising dinner, "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." Of course, not everyone thinks that's a great option. The Democrats are keen to ensure the House doesn't flip to GOP control, and the GOP themselves aren't too hot on McCarthy. After Senator Tim Scott's rebuttal to Joe Biden's joint address to Congress, McCarthy said "Scott should be running for president," which did not go down well with Trump loyalists. 


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So far, McCarthy has managed to weather the storms, but every time a new one appears. The latest is actually a callback to a very old scandal. If you are wondering why #KevinMcCarthyScandal is trending, it has to do not with the Jan 6 investigation, but his alleged affair with then Rep Renee Ellmers. Here's a full look at the scandal and why it's now back in the news.

U.S. House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy during his weekly news conference outside the U.S. Capitol May 20, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

What is the Kevin McCarthy scandal?

In 2015, minutes before the GOP were to cast votes to make McCarthy Speaker-elect, he withdrew his name from contention. "I’m not that person," he reportedly said at the time, much to the shock of his colleagues. That withdrawal was a result of an alleged scandal between McCarthy and Ellmers, which did not exist. Days before that, in October 2015, the Wikipedia pages for McCarthy and Ellmers were changed to say the two were having an affair. 

The change linked to a now-defunct website GotNews, which said the two were having a long-running affair. GotNews also said that outgoing Speaker John Boehner had told McCarthy months ago to end the fling. Both McCarthy and Ellmers denied the allegations, but the damage was already done. It got picked up and widely shared across the media and on social media as well. The scandal ended Ellmers' promising political career. In 2016, she lost by 30 points to George Holding, who didn't even live in her district. As for McCarthy, he managed to cling on to his leadership role and has clearly survived and thrived since then.

If you ask McCarthy, the scandal had little to do with his decision to withdraw. "No. No. C’mon," he said when asked about that. Other reasons given often include his stance on the Benghazi investigation and the lack of support among more conservative members of the House. In the end, the House Freedom Caucus is often blamed as the reason McCarthy never ended up speaker, but the truth is his alleged affair too played a role. It just hurt Ellmers a lot more than it hurt him.

John Boehner leaves a news conference with Jeb Hensarling, Renee Ellmers, and Kevin McCarthy at the U.S. Capitol on July 28, 2011, in Washington, DC. ( Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Affair brought back by Jan 6 investigation

On August 30, the Jan 6 select committee asked a broad group of telecommunication companies to preserve records related to the attack. Rep Bennie Thompson reportedly asked for the records of specific individuals, whose names were redacted from the publicly released orders. Thompson did however hint that the requests would also extend to his fellow lawmakers, with two big names being McCarthy and Jim Jordan. 

Both men were reportedly in contact with Trump during the insurrection and therefore might have a key role to play in the events that day. Naturally, the GOP has slammed the news, calling it an "authoritarian" overreach. At the same time, the LA Times reported that McCarthy’s in-laws won more than $7 million in federal contracts designed to help disadvantaged minorities. Reportedly, McCarthy's brother-in-law William Wages received $7.6 million in no-bid and other prime federal contracts since 2000, as Wages claimed he was a Cherokee Indian. 

Together the two scandals have taken social media by storm. "#KevinMcCarthyScandal Snuck around to have an affair, just like he sneaks around trying to cover his treasonous tracks w/ his involvement in the insurrection. HE IS A TRAITOR!" one user tweeted. Another joked, "How’s your day going @gopleader? Rumor is that someone found out about the affair...or is it something else?#KevinMcCarthyScandal." One person commented, "#KevinMcCarthyScandal Nice to see corruption is a family affair. Lying, cheating and stealing- the McCarthy way."




The affair between McCarthy and Ellmers was never proved, and it was quickly brushed away as some hoax. All eyes are now on McCarthy's brother-in-law and his present actions. Will they derail his next bid for speaker in 2022? Only time will tell.