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Kevin McCarthy, Matt Gaetz trade jabs as fierce rivalry continues: He ‘belongs in jail’

The fierce rivalry between former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., continued full throttle this week as the two traded jabs in separate media interviews centered on questions about divisions within the Florida congressional delegation.

“You have a cross-section [of the delegation],” McCarthy told Politico when asked about the House’s Florida Republicans. “You have Gaetz, who belongs in jail, and you have serious members.”

McCarthy’s criticism appeared to be referencing the ongoing probe of Gaetz by the House Ethics Committee into allegations of sexual misconduct and misuse of his funding.

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Gaetz later hit back at McCarthy, telling the outlet those were “tough words from a guy who sucker punches people in the back,” referencing recent allegations that McCarthy assaulted Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., by elbowing him in the kidneys.

“The only assault I committed was against Kevin’s fragile ego,” he added.

The two never appeared to have a rosy relationship, but the back-and-forth worsened after Gaetz filed a motion to vacate against McCarthy in October, setting up the vote that ultimately removed him as House speaker.

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McCarthy frequently took shots at Gaetz throughout the subsequent process of selecting a new House speaker, which ultimately landed in the lap of now-House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La.

Gaetz and Burchett were two of eight Republicans who voted with Democrats to oust McCarthy.

The Florida congressman called for a House ethics investigation into McCarthy on Nov. 14, after the alleged assault of Burchett. 

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McCarthy denied the incident was intentional, but Burchett said he saw it in a different light.

“You don’t expect that sort of thing from an adult, certainly not one who was once third in line for the White House,” he told reporters.

“I’ll take a polygraph test. And have Kevin take a polygraph test,” he added. “It was deliberate. It was just a cheap shot by a bully.”

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