House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, still in damage control two days after making comments that the Benghazi select committee has been politically damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, admitted he has caused a setback to his bid to become House speaker, but insisted he did not mean to imply the panel was formed with the intention of hurting the former secretary of state.
The trouble started for McCarthy when he appeared on Fox News Channel's "Hannity"
"Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee," McCarthy told host Sean Hannity. "What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping."
demanding the committee be disbanded, and even Republicans distanced themselves
from the comment.
McCarthy spokesman Matt Sparks issued a statement on Wednesday, saying, "The Select Committee on Benghazi has always been focused on getting the facts about the attacks on our diplomatic facilities in Libya that led to the death of four Americans. This was the right thing to do and the committee has worked judiciously and honestly."
But with Republicans still grousing, McCarthy sat down Thursday with Fox News Channel's "Special Report"
host Bret Baier to clarify further.
"This committee was set up for one sole purpose: to find the truth on behalf of the families of four dead Americans," McCarthy said. "Now, I did not intend to imply in any way that that work is political. Of course it is not. Look at what they've carried out themselves."
"But that's not what you said," Baier countered.
"I wasn't saying the committee was political," McCarthy said. "That committee is solely to get the truth out what happened. Within the truth, you found out about a server."
It is Clinton's use of a private email server for her personal emails that has landed her in more hot water than the original questions about the deadly attacks on the diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
McCarthy said he has spoken to Benghazi committee chairman Trey Gowdy, and said Gowdy assured him he knows McCarthy doesn't think the panel is politically motivated.
"I talked to Trey and I told him I regret that this has ever taken place," McCarthy said.
McCarthy has not yet secured the 218 votes needed to be elected speaker to replace John Boehner, but told Baier that he is "very close."
He assured wary members of his party, "This not what you're going to see as speaker of the House.
"I put a statement out yesterday and I could have come out, I should have come out right afterwards," McCarthy said.
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