Elbows are out in Congress. Literally.
Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reportedly shoved Tennessee Rep. Tim Burchett while the latter was speaking to NPR’s Claudia Grisales on Tuesday, leading to a tense confrontation between the two lawmakers.
According to Grisales, Burchett (R-Tenn.) was facing her as the two discussed a GOP conference meeting he had just left. McCarthy (R-Calif.) walked behind the pair with his security detail and shoved Burchett, causing him to lunge toward Grisales.
“I thought it was a joke, it was not. And a chase ensued,” Grisales wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “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!?’”
Burchett then took off after McCarthy to confront the former speaker, who denied that he’d elbowed him. “You got no guts, you did so,” Burchett reportedly countered. “The reporter said it right there, what kind of chicken move is that? You’re pathetic man, you are so pathetic.”
According to the Tennessee Republican, the incident was the first communication the pair had had since he voted to expel McCarthy from the speakership in October.
Grisales, who had followed Burchett down the hall, wrote that as Burchett left the interaction he called back “You need security Kevin” towards McCarthy. “He’s just a jerk,” Burchett added, calling McCarthy “childish.”
Burchett added to Grisales that he had no plans to follow up on the interaction. “I think that just showed what he’s about and it’s unfortunate,” he said.
Shortly after the incident, Burchett told CNN that McCarthy had hit him with “a clean shot to the kidneys.”
“I got elbowed in the back and it kind of caught me off guard […] I turned back and there was Kevin,” he said. “For a minute I was kind of ‘what the heck just happened’ and then I chased after him of course.” Burchett added that, in his view, McCarthy is a “bully with 17 million dollars and a security detail.”
“He’s the type of guy that when you’re a kid would throw a rock over the fence then run home and hide behind his mamma’s skirt,” Burchett said. “That kind of stuff, that’s not the way we handle things in East Tennessee. If we have a problem with someone I’m gonna look them in the eye and talk to them.”
Asked for comment, Burchett’s office told Rolling Stone that “former Speaker McCarthy elbowed Rep. Burchett in the back which is what prompted a reaction from Rep. Burchett.”
It’s not the first time McCarthy has been accused of physically harassing his enemies in Congress. In his book Renegade, published in October of this year, former Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) wrote that McCarthy had repeatedly shoulder-checked him in retaliation for Kinzinger’s support of the work of the Jan. 6 Committee.
“I went from being one of the boys he treated with big smiles and pats on the back to outcast as soon as I started speaking the truth about the president who would be king,” Kinzinger wrote. “Once, I was standing in the aisle that runs from the floor to the back of the [House] chamber. As he passed, with his security man and some of his boys, he veered towards me, hit me with his shoulder and then kept going.”
Kinzinger detailed a second incident in which while standing at the back of the House chamber, McCarthy “shoulder-checked me again, I thought to myself, ‘What a child.’”