Gaetz Hits McCarthy With Ethics Complaint For ‘Sucker Punching’ Congressman

Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz filed an ethics complaint Tuesday against Rep. Kevin McCarthy, accusing the former speaking of assaulting a fellow lawmaker.

In a bizarre new twist to the duo’s ongoing feud, McCarthy is alleged in the complaint to have sucker punched Tennessee Congressman Tim Burchett–one of the eight Republicans who voted to remove McCarthy from the Speakership last month.

“It has come to my attention that this morning, November 14, 2023, following a meeting of the House Republican Conference, Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) assaulted Representative Tim Burchett (R-TN) in the hallways of Capitol complex,” Gaetz said in the letter. “This assault was witnessed by numerous people, including Claudia Griseles of NPR, who was interviewing Rep. Burchett at the time.”

In an interview with CNN, Burchett described McCarthy as a “bully” and said the California Republican had elbowed him in the kidneys. The assault is variously described as a “sucker punch” and a “clean shot to the kidney” in Gaetz’s complaint.

“Needless to say, this incident deserves immediate and swift investigation by the Ethics Committee. This Congress has seen a substantial increase in breaches of decorum unlike anything we have seen since the pre-Civil War era. I myself have been a victim of outrageous conduct on the House floor as well, but nothing like an open and public assault on a Member, committed by another Member. The rot starts at the top.”

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Burchett later told CNN that he was still in “a little bit” of pain from the altercation but said he was not seeking medical attention and would not seek an attorney.

While Burchett says he is not pursuing legal action, Gaetz insisted that the Ethics Committee convene an investigation into McCarthy’s “breach of duty.”

“While Rep. Burchett is within his rights to decline to press charges against Rep. McCarthy, your Committee does have a duty to investigate breaches of the binding Code of Official Conduct, whose first rule is that ‘A Member… shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.’ There is substantial evidence that Rep. McCarthy breached this duty.”

Gaetz continued,

“Given Rep. Burchett’s comments on the matter, and the statements of public witnesses, I request the House Committee on Ethics to proceed immediately with an investigation into the facts of today’s incident, including interviewing, under oath, the alleged assailant and assailee, and any witnesses.”

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McCarthy has since repeatedly denied the assault in multiple interviews with reporters. On Tuesday, he told CNN that he did not shove or elbow Burchett and that the hallway was just “tight.”

“If I hit somebody, they would know it,” McCarthy said. “If I kidney punched someone, they would be on the ground.”

That same day, another reporter caught up to McCarthy, asking, “Congressman Gaetz is […] submitting a complaint to the Ethics Committee over this issue. Do you have any response to Congressman Gaetz?”

“Oh good,” McCarthy responded. “No. I think Ethics is a good place for Gaetz to be.”

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