CNN’s Brianna Keilar tore into House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday after he claimed former President Donald Trump did not provoke the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol ― contradicting his own take last week when he said Trump bore responsibility for the attack.
Keilar also noted that at a press conference, McCarthy dodged questions about his accountability for the prelude to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and refused to answer why he didn’t “speak the truth when it mattered.”
McCarthy was among the many GOP leaders who for weeks following the Nov. 3 election gave credibility to Trump’s lies that the vote was “rigged” and that he had actually defeated Joe Biden “in a landslide.” McCarthy also was among the 139 House Republicans who voted in favor of objecting to the certification of the election results just hours after the insurrection.
Keilar said that “by casting doubt on the election, by feeding the conspiracy theory monster, [McCarthy] was a major part of why those rioters showed up to the Capitol. It was all a political game for two months until the monster showed up on the doorstep of his workplace.”
The House’s Democratic majority ― joined by 10 Republicans ― voted on Jan. 13 to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting the mob that stormed and defaced the Capitol after listening to him at a rally where he pressed his baseless claims of election fraud.
Ahead of the vote on impeachment, McCarthy said in a floor speech that Trump “bears responsibility” for the attack that led to the deaths of five people and that Trump “should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” (Trump waited several hours to condemn the violence).
McCarthy still voted against impeachment. But his comments earned him criticism from some Trump allies, as well as Trump himself in private, according to New York Times White House reporter Maggie Haberman.
Against that backdrop, McCarthy at his Thursday press conference said, “I don’t believe [Trump] provoked” the riot, “if you listen to what he said at the rally.”
Keilar scolded McCarthy for “still defending the man who’s probably driving his golf cart across the putting green right now.”
She added, “And to say that Trump didn’t play a role in the insurrection is not only a lie, it contradicts what a key person in all of this said eight days ago. So let’s listen to Kevin McCarthy, and then listen to Kevin McCarthy.”
Her program then played McCarthy’s conflicting comments about Trump’s culpability.