On Thursday, the right-wing outlet The Federalist reported that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is officially endorsing Harriet Hageman, the primary opponent of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) — an incredibly unusual move, as Republican congressional leaders almost never endorse primary challenges to colleagues in their own caucus. This comes after former President Donald Trump also endorsed Hageman over Cheney last year.
Responding to the news, a spokesman for Cheney remarked that Hageman must be "desperate" to pull out such an endorsement at this stage.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is officially backing Liz Cheney's primary challenger Harriet Hageman, the Federalist reports. \n\nBig endorsement that cements the feud between McCarthy and Cheney— Max Cohen (@Max Cohen) 1645132128
On Kevin McCarthy\u2019s decision to back Trump-endorsed Wyoming congressional candidate Harriet Hageman over Liz Cheney, Cheney spokesperson Jeremy Adler offered this: \u201cWow, she must be really desperate.\u201d— Audrey Fahlberg (@Audrey Fahlberg) 1645133812
Cheney, who just last year was chair of the House Republican Conference, experienced a swift fall from grace after she voted to impeach Trump for his role in inciting the January 6 insurrection, and publicly condemning his lies about the 2020 election being rigged. McCarthy initially defended Cheney, but under pressure from Trump supporters, backed the successful push to oust her from that role and replace her with Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY). Cheney has subsequently joined the House Select Committee investigating the attack on the Capitol, which has earned her a censure from the Republican National Committee for allegedly trying to persecute the "legitimate political discourse" of fellow Republicans.
Ironically, before running for Congress as a Trump loyalist, Hageman herself opposed Trump's candidacy for president in 2016, calling him "racist" and "xenophobic" — and using her seat on the GOP Rules Committee to try to block him from being nominated. She even served as an adviser to Cheney's unsuccessful Senate campaign in 2013 — prompting some Trump supporters to question whether she is really a better choice than Cheney at all.
All of this comes as McCarthy has come under pressure from the far right flank of his caucus; Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) previously threatened to withhold her vote to elect him speaker if Republicans win control of the House, unless he made moves to oust several Republicans who have been critical of Trump from key roles.
See the full endorsement statement below.
NEW: McCarthy's statement endorsing Cheney's primary challenger. \n\nThe release notes that he joins Trump and Rand Paul in making a a "bold and historic endorsement"pic.twitter.com/Y0wvzZ6tlO— Olivia Beavers (@Olivia Beavers) 1645138516