Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., confronted Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., at a closed-door House GOP conference meeting on Thursday morning.
A source familiar with the meeting said ‘fireworks’ occurred when Gaetz rose to accuse McCarthy and his allies of waging an online campaign against him using ‘MAGA influencers paid to attack Matt’ on social media.
McCarthy denied the claim and dismissed Gaetz. ‘McCarthy said he wouldn’t waste his time on Gaetz like that,’ the source told Fox News Digital.
Another source present at the meeting said that McCarthy told Gaetz, ‘Tomorrow I’m spending my time giving $5 million [to GOP candidates and members] to expand our majority. What are you doing to help our majority?’
The second source said that other members also had expressed frustration with Gaetz. One lawmaker told Gaetz to ‘f— off,’ the source said, while another called him a ‘scumbag.’
Gaetz seemed to confirm to reporters he and McCarthy had had the exchange when he exited the meeting.
‘I asked him whether or not he was paying those influencers to post negative things about me online,’ Gaetz said.
He also confirmed that McCarthy had said he would not waste his time: ‘Yeah, that is what he said.’
Asked whether he felt frustration with McCarthy during the exchange and the aftermath, Gaetz said: ‘My blood pressure is like 120 over 80. So I’m feeling great.’
A spokesperson for McCarthy confirmed to Fox News Digital that the speaker ‘had absolutely no role’ in the alleged online campaign, and that ‘all signs’ point to a Democrat-backed company.
Fox News Digital was provided with a screenshot of a cease-and-desist email sent by McCarthy’s outside lawyer to the alleged orchestrators.
‘I am outside counsel to Speaker Kevin McCarthy. I understand based on multiple reporter inquiries that reference your name that you are reaching out to social media influencers about a ‘Against Gaetz and government shutdown’ and claiming it is on behalf of Speaker McCarthy and/or entities purportedly affiliated with the Speaker. That is false and in violation of the law,’ the email read. ‘This email puts you on notice that you must immediately cease and desist or we will move forward with all remedies under the law including the pursuit of damages where warranted.’
It’s the latest sign of animosity between the two lawmakers. Gaetz has been threatening to force a House-wide vote on whether to boot McCarthy from the speakership over alleged violations of a deal he struck with critics to win the speaker’s gavel in January.
Under confirmed terms of that compromise, McCarthy agreed to allow any lawmaker to trigger a vote on his removal, known as a motion to vacate.
Gaetz stopped short of calling for a motion to vacate in remarks on the House floor Tuesday.
‘[T]he House of Representatives has been poorly led. We own that, and we have to do something about it. My Democrat colleagues will have an opportunity to do something about that, too, and we will see if they bail out our failed Speaker,’ he said.
Gaetz dodged questions on the measure on Thursday, however, telling reporters, ‘Right now we’re working to get these individual single-subject spending bills passed, that’s my principal goal.’