During a news conference ahead of Thursday’s hearing of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, McCarthy was asked if he still believed Trump bore some responsibility for the attack.
“Look, I’ve answered that many times. I thought everybody in the country [bore] some responsibility, based upon what has been going on,” McCarthy said, echoing remarks he’s made in the past. “The riots on the streets, the others.”
In the weeks after the Capitol riot, the Republican leader said both publicly and privately that Trump was responsible. “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” McCarthy said on the House floor on Jan. 13, 2021. “He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.”
Privately, his assessment was even harsher. In a leaked audio recording from Jan. 11, 2021, McCarthy said Trump “bears responsibility for his words and actions. No ifs, ands or buts.” In another recording, he said what Trump did on Jan. 6 was “unacceptable” and that “nobody can defend that, and nobody should defend it.”
But within a couple of weeks, he pivoted to doing just that. By Jan. 21, McCarthy was arguing that Trump never provoked the mob that laid siege to the Capitol, and offered his first iteration of this week’s comment.
“I also think everybody across this country has some responsibility,” he said in an interview at the time.
His “riots on the streets” comment Thursday was an apparent reference to the nationwide protests in 2020 over racial injustice and police violence against people of color, following the repeated police killings of Black Americans.