House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) distanced himself Monday from the "unacceptable" participation of two GOP lawmakers, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Rep. Paul Gosar (Ariz.), in a white nationalist event in Florida on Friday. At one point during the America First Political Action Conference, organizer Nick Fuentes backed Russia's Ukraine invasion, saying "they're going on about Russia and Vladimir Putin is Hitler — and they say that's not a good thing." Right before Greene took the stage, Fuentes led a chant for Putin.
"There's no place in our party for any of this," McCarthy told reporters. "The party should not be associated, any time, any place, with somebody who is anti-Semitic" or leads chants for Putin. He said he will "have a discussion" with Greene and Gosar.
This is a slight deviation from "a game plan that McCarthy has repeatedly adopted over the past year with the more extreme elements present in the House GOP conference: engage controversial members privately but avoid alienating them with any public criticism," since he needs their support to become House speaker, The Hill reports. "While that strategy helps limit public GOP infighting in the moment, it also means that extremism routinely goes unchallenged by top party leaders."
McCarthy has no such qualms about publicly censuring the two Republicans who sit on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. One of them, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), is retiring next year, but McCarthy is backing the primary challenger to Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). So the conservative magazine National Review asked McCarthy's campaign if he also plans to back a primary challenger to Greene.
The National Republican Congressional Committee is still actively supporting the re-election campaigns of Greene and Gosar, journalist Judd Legum noted Monday.
"What I think we should do is kick them out of the party," Kingziner said Monday. "What do I think we're going to do? Nothing. Liz and I can get censured, they're going to get help up as the future leaders of the party."
Greene — who proposed forming an "Anglo-Saxon" America First Caucus with Gosar last year, before House GOP leaders stepped in — defended her participation in the conference from "the Pharisees in the Republican Party" and their criticism. "I won't cancel others in the conservative movement, even if I find some of their statements tasteless, misguided or even repulsive at times," she said.