Matt Gaetz Accuses Kevin McCarthy of Hiring Influencers to Attack Him as Shutdown Looms

"Matt, I'm not worried about you," McCarthy reportedly retorted as they raged at each other in a House GOP meeting.

Matt Gaetz Accuses Kevin McCarthy of Hiring Influencers to Attack Him as Shutdown Looms
Photo:Chip Somodevilla (Getty Images)

Ah, yet another story with no heroes but plenty of hilarity: In a Thursday, not-so-closed-door meeting among House Republicans, days before a government shutdown, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Speaker Kevin McCarthy apparently tore into each other, as Gaetz accused McCarthy of hiring social media influencers to trash him online. Sources who were in the room told CNN that, in response to this accusation, McCarthy brushed Gaetz off, insisting that “he wouldn’t waste his time or money on Gaetz.” Punchbowl News reports that McCarthy also told Gaetz, “Matt, I’m not worried about you,” and that instead of hiring influencers, he’s donating $5 million to House races to keep the majority.

Gaetz went on to confirm this confrontation to CNN. “I asked [McCarthy] whether or not he was paying those influencers to post negative things about me online,” Gaetz said, also affirming that McCarthy told him he wouldn’t waste time on Gaetz. Per CNN, other Republican members in the room audibly complained about Gaetz, referring to him as a “scumbag” and saying he should “fuck off.”

The contentious exchange between Gaetz and McCarthy comes as far-right hardliners in the caucus do battle with Republican leadership over the federal budget. Gaetz and others are determined to shut down the government rather than agree to a short-term compromise bill with some Democratic demands to keep the government running past Saturday. In the midst of all of this, rumors are circulating that McCarthy hired right-wing influencers to publicly criticize Gaetz over his support for a shutdown. Gaetz has since shared several tweets from people claiming to have been approached by the McCarthy camp with financial offers to publicly attack him; on Tuesday, Gaetz quote-tweeted one such post and called McCarthy “pathetic.” In another, he claimed that McCarthy “has to pay people to agree with him.” By that evening, McCarthy had sent a cease and desist letter to an individual at the firm Notorious LLC, demanding that they stop claiming to be working on behalf of McCarthy as they smear Gaetz.

This latest catfight comes after Gaetz was one of the most vocal opponents to McCarthy becoming Speaker back in January; it took McCarthy a remarkable 15 attempts to be voted in as Speaker.

Gaetz recounted his side of the Thursday exchange in more detail to The Hill. “I asked McCarthy a direct question: Were you out there paying for people to try to create a false negative sentiment about me online?” Gaetz said. “And his non-sequitur retort was that he was giving out two and a half million dollars to other Republicans at breakfast. And I asked him how much of that money he’d gotten from FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried.” According to Gaetz, McCarthy merely “mumbled and said that he didn’t think enough of me” to buy influencers.

To me, this influencer tiff is funny either way: Either McCarthy is, indeed, paying viral right-wingers to shit on Gaetz, which is a level of high school pettiness I can almost respect, or he isn’t, and Gaetz is too delusional to grasp that plenty of people hate him enough to trash him without a check from McCarthy. (Lord give me the confidence and utter narcissism to believe people would have to be paid to not like me.) Now, all we can really do is sit back and watch these two petulant House Republicans—yet again—burn it all down.

Speaking of, as of Thursday afternoon, House Republicans are continuing to eat each other alive over the spending bill as the shutdown looms ever closer. I have a feeling this isn’t the last time Gaetz and McCarthy will come to (verbal) blows.

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