Kevin McCarthy Does Damage Control On Benghazi Comments

"This committee was set up for one sole purpose, to find the truth on behalf of families for four dead Americans."

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the House's investigation of the 2011 Benghazi attack wasn't meant to hurt Hillary Clinton's presidential chances -- and he didn't mean to suggest otherwise.

"This committee was set up for one sole purpose, to find the truth on behalf of families for four dead Americans," McCarthy told Fox News on Thursday night. "Now, I did not imply in any way that that work is political, of course it is not. Look at the way they have carried themselves out."

Earlier this week, McCarthy bragged that the Benghazi investigation had been successful in affecting Clinton's campaign.

"Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?" McCarthy told Fox News on Tuesday. "But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought."

McCarthy quickly faced backlash from Democrats, many of whom had already accused Republicans of dragging on the investigation in order to hurt the left.

"This stunning concession from Rep. McCarthy reveals the truth that Republicans never dared admit in public: the core Republican goal in establishing the Benghazi Committee was always to damage Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and never to conduct an even-handed search for the facts," Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said in a statement released Wednesday. Cummings is a ranking member of the House committee handling the Benghazi probe.

“It’s really an ethical question," Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters on Thursday. "It makes the whole operation practically an unethical operation. I think the Republicans should shut it down."

Even fellow Republicans distanced themselves from his comments. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the probe "has never been about former Secretary of State Clinton and never will be."

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told CNN that McCarthy's comments were "absolutely inappropriate."

On Monday, McCarthy announced he would be running for the House speakership. Boehner is retiring at the end of this month.