Kevin McCarthy’s Exit from Speakership Race Comes After Walter Jones Pressed Candidates on Moral Turpitude

Kevin McCarthy Leaves Press Conf AP PhotoEvan Vucci
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

WASHINGTON – Rep. Kevin McCarthy dropped out of the race to become Speaker of the House following a letter sent by a Republican colleague warning Speaker candidates to drop out of the race to hide personal indiscretions that could embarrass the party.

House Majority Leader McCarthy dropped out of the race Thursday, just hours before a vote that was expected to make him the Republican nominee for Speaker. But conservatives were unhappy with McCarthy’s front-runner status.

Breitbart News reported Wednesday that Rep. Walter Jones sent a letter to Republican Conference chairman Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers urging Speaker candidates to drop out if they have “skeletons in their closets.”

The letter was circulated around Capitol Hill, where it was read widely in the hours preceding McCarthy’s surprise decision.

“Some of the most difficult times have been when our Republican leaders or potential Republican leaders must step down because of skeletons in their closets,” Jones wrote. “We’ve seen it with former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Bob Livingston, who ran for Speaker in 1998.”

“With all the voter distrust of Washington felt around the country, I’m 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, the Republican Conference, and the House of Representatives if they become public,” Jones added.

It’s unclear at this time whether such issues of moral turpitude involve McCarthy, but rumors have been circulating about him and Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) for some time in Capitol Hill circles. McCarthy’s wife was present for the GOP conference meeting behind closed doors in which McCarthy announced he was not running for Speaker of the House.


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