Kevin McCarthy Endorses Trump-Backed Liz Cheney Challenger

  • Kevin McCarthy officially endorsed Rep. Liz Cheney’s primary challenger Harriet Hageman.
  • McCarthy’s endorsement is unusual for a party leader and highlights the rift between the two.
  • Cheney fell out of favor with much of the GOP for serving on the January 6 Committee.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy formally endorsed a right-wing candidate, also backed by former President Donald Trump, who’s running in the GOP primary against Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney.

McCarthy’s endorsement of Harriet Hageman’s bid against Cheney, a colleague and a member of his caucus, is a highly unusual intervention into a primary for a House party leader that also highlights the wide rift between McCarthy and Cheney.

“After spending time with Harriet, it is readily apparent she will always listen and prioritize the needs of her local communities and is focused on tackling our nation’s biggest problems,” McCarthy said in a statement to The Federalist on Thursday. “I look forward to serving with Harriet for years to come.”

In response to the McCarthy endorsement, a spokesperson for Cheney told Politico that Hageman “must be really desperate.”

Hageman, a former gubernatorial candidate, has raised $1 million so far through her campaign and is receiving support from GOP megadonor Peter Thiel, a Trump ally and Silicon Valley billionaire.

“Wyoming deserves to be represented by someone who cares about Wyoming, not someone who is consumed by her own personal war with President Trump,” Hageman recently told Fox News. “I have been to all 23 counties in Wyoming, and I know that the people are desperate for a change.”

Cheney, who was first elected to Congress in 2016, previously served alongside McCarthy in House leadership as the third-highest ranking House Republican. But their relationship began to fray in early 2021 when Cheney repeatedly criticized Trump over the January 6 riots at the Capitol and voted to impeach him for inciting the insurrection, the most senior House Republican to do so.

In response to her ongoing criticisms of the former, the Republican caucus president officially approved Cheney out as their leader in May 2021 and replaced her with the more Trump-aligned Rep. Elise Stefanik.

After losing her position in House GOP leadership, Cheney accepted an appointment from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, a panel many Republicans have decried as partisan and unfair. Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who is retiring in 2022, are the only two Republicans on the committee.

The Republican National Committee voted to censure Cheney and Kinzinger for serving on the January 6 committee at its winter meeting in early February, with the resolution’s wording accusing the two of persecuting “ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”

Several Senate Republicans rebuked the censure and the term “legitimate political discourse,” with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying it’s “not the job of RNC” to be “singling out” specific Republicans.”

McCarthy, meanwhile, said that those who “broke in and caused damage” should be in jail, but argued that McDaniel’s reference to the persecution of “legitimate political discourse” was referring to its subpoena of RNC members “who weren’t even here, who were in Florida that day.”

Kinzinger said the RNC censure could be “a pretty big backfire” and trashed McCarthy in a recent interview with The Bulwark’s podcast, predicting McCarthy will be beholden to the far-right wing of the GOP if he becomes speaker and added that he “looks like a feckless, weak, tired man.”

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