An eye witness alleges that the former House speaker shoved Tennessee Rep. Tim Burchett following a GOP conference meeting on Tuesday morning, causing a scene inside the U.S. Capitol
Republican Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Tim Burchett were allegedly involved in a physical altercation in the Capitol on Tuesday, with one reporter describing the men yelling at one another in the hallway as a "chase" unfolded.
NPR's Claudia Grisales described the interaction on X, writing that former House Speaker McCarthy instigated the incident while Burchett's back was turned to him.
"I have NEVER seen this on Capitol Hill," Grisales wrote. "While talking to Rep. Tim Burchett after the GOP conference meeting, former Speaker McCarthy walked by with his detail and McCarthy shoved Burchett. Burchett lunged towards me. I thought it was a joke, it was not. And a chase ensued."
She continued: "Burchett responded jokingly as McCarthy kept walking, 'Sorry Kevin didn't mean to elbow --' then seriously yelled, 'why'd you elbow me in the back Kevin?! Hey Kevin, you got any guts!?'"
Grisales wrote that Burchett then looked at her and described McCarthy as a "jerk."
"That's when the chase ensued. Burchett took off after McCarthy and his detail. I chased behind with my mic," she wrote.
After catching up to McCarthy, Grisales says that Burchett asked him, "Hey Kevin, why'd you walk behind me and elbow me in the back?"
McCarthy reportedly replied, "I didn't elbow you in the back."
"You got no guts, you did so... the reporter said it right there, what kind of chicken move is that..." Burchett responded, adding: "You're pathetic man, you are so pathetic."
Burchett then walked away from McCarthy, Grisales wrote, before yelling, "You need security Kevin!"
Burchett told Grisales that the two men had not communicated since he voted for McCarthy's ouster as speaker last month.
Burchett himself described the incident with McCarthy somewhat differently to CNN on Tuesday morning, saying, "It was just a little heated," before accusing the former House speaker of "sucker punching" him.
"You don't expect a guy who was, at one time, three steps away from the White House to hit you with a sucker punch," Burchett told the network.
McCarthy, on the other hand, denied instigating a fight with his colleague, telling CNN's Melanie Zanona, "I didn’t shove or elbow him, it's a tight hallway."
Reps for neither Burchett nor McCarthy immediately responded to PEOPLE's request for comment about the incident.
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Fractures within the GOP have been on public display in recent weeks, particularly following an unprecedented motion to remove McCarthy from the nation's third-highest post last month.
In a historic recall effort, the House voted 216-210 in October to strip McCarthy of his leadership role, with chaos ensuing after Republicans spent three weeks without a speaker, nominating a slew of candidates who eventually removed themselves from consideration after they couldn't gain enough support to win the role outright.
Ultimately, Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson won the House speaker election in a 220-209 vote on party lines, becoming second in line to the presidency and putting an end to the weeks of infighting among House Republicans that effectively froze Congress.
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