Rep. Jason Chaffetz personally told Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy he should apologize for jarring comments he made about the Republican-led House Benghazi panel’s impact on Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“I told [McCarthy] I’m supportive of him, but I have to distance myself from his comments. I just felt they were inaccurate and wrong,” the Oversight and Government Reform chairman said.
“I have a good working relationship with Kevin McCarthy and that was for him to digest. What he does with it is his business,” the Utah Republican told CQ Roll Call and The Associated Press Thursday in a brief hallway interview.
Chaffetz first raised concerns about McCarthy’s comments Wednesday, 24 hours after McCarthy told Fox News the Benghazi panel was a political success because it had helped drive down Clinton’s poll numbers.
McCarthy’s comments undercut repeated Republican assertions that the panel is a politically impartial probe into the September 2012 terror attack in Benghazi, Libya, that claimed four American lives.
Democrats have seized on the comments as proof the committee is little more than an attempt to smear Clinton, who was secretary of State when the attack happened. Many Republicans, including McCarthy, have responded by reiterating the panel has had nothing to do with politics.
But some have suggested McCarthy, in the midst of a bid to take over for outgoing Speaker John A. Boehner as the top Republican in the House, dropped the ball.
On MSNBC Thursday morning, Chaffetz said McCarthy’s comments undermined the groundwork done by Oversight and Government Reform Committee Republicans prior to the committee’s formation last year.
“I think he should apologize. I think he should withdraw it. I think it’s an absolute inaccurate statement as to what we’re doing and have done and the work on Benghazi,” Chaffetz said.
Chaffetz said he and Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., now the chairman of the special panel, were among the first to question the administration’s handling of the deadly attacks on the U.S. consulate.
“To suggest there was any sort of political motivation is absolutely — it’s not fair to Mr. Gowdy, it’s not fair to myself,” Chaffetz told MSNBC. “And most importantly it’s not fair to those four families who lost those loved ones. That’s not why we’re doing this.”
Asked whether he thought McCarthy’s remarks would hurt the California Republican’s bid for speaker, Chaffetz replied with a long pause.
“There are are a lot of factors that go into it,” Chaffetz said finally. “I think he misspoke, but I hope he clarifies it.”
McCarthy’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment based on Chaffetz’s calls for a retraction.
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