Fox News host Shep Smith on Thursday didn’t let Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) get away without explaining a vague “misdeeds” letter sent before House speaker candidate Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) abruptly quit the race, which seems to imply McCarthy had an affair.
The day before McCarthy, the House majority leader, stunned Republicans by pulling out of the speaker’s race, Jones wrote a letter to GOP conference chairman Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) asking that “any candidate for Speaker of the House, majority leader, and majority whip withdraw himself from the leadership election if there are any misdeeds he has committed since joining Congress that will embarrass himself.”
Jones’ letter said we’ve seen this problem before, with former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.), who stepped down as speaker-elect in 1998 after admitting an affair, and Newt Gingrich.
Smith, on his Fox News show Thursday, pressed Jones to explain the context of the letter.
“What do you know about Kevin McCarthy I don’t know?” Smith asked.
“Well, I don’t know,” Jones said. “This was written primarily because I’ve been here 20 years, and I remember the night that Newt stepped down, the next night Bob Livingston stepped down, and the chaos it put the Republican Party in. I’ve seen several things since that did not deal with Mr. McCarthy, but just dealt with other people in the Republican Party.”
Smith pushed him to explain, asking, “So randomly you just wrote to the conference leader and the conference, asking ‘any candidates for Speaker of House, Majority Leader or Majority Whip to withdraw himself if there are misdeeds he has committed?’ ... This sounds like a man who knows something he’s not talking about, doesn’t it?”
Jones clumsily attempted to segue the conversation into a discussion ab0ut campaign finance reforms. Smith cut him off.
“You have written something so serious I have to ask the question again, because you just didn’t answer,” Smith said. “Since you wrote this, I feel like we all deserve an answer ... What did you know? Because who writes such a thing in a vacuum? Who fishes in such a way?”
After some back and forth, with Jones accusing Smith of questioning his integrity, the congressman told Smith to come to his own conclusion.
“Well, anything you want to read into it, you’re welcome to read into it,” Jones said. “I gave you an honest answer, that’s all I can do.”