Pelosi blasts McCarthy for dodging press on RNC resolution, GOP for hitting 'rock bottom'

McCarthy tried to clean up the RNC's language to reporters later Wednesday.

February 9, 2022, 3:10 PM

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called out GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday, saying he "literally ran away" from ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott as she asked him one day earlier about the Republican National Committee censure resolution -- a moment that has now captured international headlines and produced countless memes.

"Republicans seem to be having a limbo contest with themselves to see how low they can go," Pelosi said at her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill. "They seem to have reached rock bottom with their statement that what happened on January 6 was normal political discourse -- legitimate, legitimate political discourse."

The House speaker directly blasted her Republican counterpart for repeatedly dodging questions on the resolution in what's unfolding as a defining moment for the GOP.

The resolution which passed last week censured GOP Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for what their involvement in the "persecution of ordinary citizens" who were engaged in "legitimate political discourse" on Jan. 6 because of their work on the House select committee investigating the attack.

PHOTO: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Feb. 9, 2022.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Feb. 9, 2022.
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

"It's disturbing to see that Republican leader of the House ran -- actually literally refused to condemn that resolution of legitimate political discourse. He literally ran away from the press when he was asked about his position," Pelosi said.

"Republicans can run but they cannot hide from what happened on January 6," she said. "To call that legitimate political discourse: 140 law enforcement officers were wounded, some people died. It was an assault on Capitol, on Congress. More importantly, an assault on our democracy."

McCarthy responded to reporters' questions following Pelosi's news conference, instead of attempting to avoid them as he had earlier.

The Republican leader appeared to try to have it both ways, saying finally that he agreed with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's statement that the attack on Jan. 6 was a "violent insurrection" -- but did not go as far a McConnell in rebuking the RNC's action.

"Yeah, I agree. Anyone who broke into this building, I mean, no one would disagree with that," McCarthy told reporters.

Playing cleanup for the RNC and Chair Ronna McDaniel, McCarthy said the "ordinary citizens" cited in the resolution are people who have been subpoenaed by the select committee who were not present in Washington on the day of the attack.

"I think had they explained out what they were talking to, this wouldn't be controversial at all. They weren't referring to people who have broken into this building, everyone understands that," McCarthy said to reporters, walking at a leisurely pace.

But he did not clarify how he could conclude that given that the resolution the RNC passed referred to "ordinary citizens" engaged in "legitimate political discourse" -- on Jan. 6.

McDaniel has also released subsequent statements attempting to clarify the resolution's "legitimate political discourse" language amid backlash, adding the words, "that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol," -- though notably, those words were not included in the censure text that the 168-member body approved last Friday.

Asked if he supports that the RNC decided to go after Cheney and Kinzinger in the way that they did, McCarthy said, "They have the right to do their resolution and what they want to do."

PHOTO: House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy listens to fellow Republican House members speak about President Joe Biden's first year in office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., Jan. 20, 2022.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy listens to fellow Republican House members speak about President Joe Biden's first year in office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., Jan. 20, 2022.
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

At her earlier press conference, Pelosi went on to equate the Republican Party with a "cult" -- echoing messaging from House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, who said earlier this week that the "C" in "RNC" stands for "cult."

"I say this to Republicans all the time: 'Take back your party from this cult.' Take back your party. America needs a strong Republican Party and a strong Democratic Party," she added.

ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega asked the White House on Tuesday for reaction to the RNC resolution and whether they agree with some Democrats' characterization that the GOP is a "cult."

"I think it's clear to Americans that what happened on January 6 was not legitimate political discourse, storming the Capitol in an attempt to halt the peaceful transition of power is not legitimate political discourse, neither is attacking and injuring over 140 police officers, smashing windows and to defiling offices," said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

"It's telling to all of us that some leading Republicans have projected that characterization, including the former president's national security adviser and the chief of staff to the former vice president, who, as he put it, had a front-row seat that day, including as rioters chanted for the former Vice President to be hanged," she continued. "So again, we certainly reject the notion that that was legitimate political discourse as we think – very a large number of Americans would as well."

Pelosi putting Republicans on blast comes one day after McConnell, asked about the "legitimate political discourse" language the RNC used directly, pointedly characterized Jan. 6 as a "violent insurrection" and suggested the RNC was out of line to single out sitting members.

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