House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Friday that Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., was "wrong" to call Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a "thug."
Cawthorn recently told supporters in North Carolina that Zelenskyy was a "thug" and that the Ukrainian government "is incredibly corrupt and is incredibly evil and has been pushing woke ideologies," WRAL reported.
McCarthy was asked about Cawthorn's comments Friday at a press conference.
"Madison is wrong. If there's any thug in this world, it's [Vladimir] Putin," McCarthy said. "You just watched Putin put Russia … directing Russia bomb a maternity ward. We watched yesterday, in a theater that’s identified in the front and the back from the air that you’re housing children. Bombed.
"This is atrocious. This is wrong. This is the aggressor. This is the one that needs to end this war. This is the one that everybody should unite against."
McCarthy, who said he had spoken with Cawthorn about the remarks, added he still supported the lawmaker’s reelection bid.
NBC News Foreign Correspondent Raf Sanchez tweeted a clip of Russian state-media hosts showing the video of Cawthorn calling Zelenskyy a "thug."
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., responded by directing a tweet to Cawthorn.
"If your comments are being replayed over and over by Russian state propaganda outlets... #ncpol," Tillis tweeted Thursday.
Zelenskyy on Wednesday addressed U.S. Congress in a live video speech to garner support against Russia's invasion.
Lawmakers rose and gave him a standing ovation when Zelenskyy appeared on the large video screen.
The Ukrainian president called on lawmakers to support a no-fly zone over his country and bolster his nation's air defense systems to repel the Russian strikes.
The U.S. and its NATO allies, though, have ruled out enforcing a no-fly zone out of concerns that it could lead to a broader war against Russia.
After Zelenskyy's speech, Cawthorn warned against any excessive U.S. involvement in the conflict.
"I do not support neocons both on the left and in my party who clamor for war at every chance they get,” Cawthorn said in a statement Wednesday. "The scenes coming from Ukraine are both jarring and heartbreaking. But lurching to war or involving American soldiers in this conflict could lead to identical jarring and heartbreaking scenes with American lives."
Cawthorn was among 15 House Republicans who voted against banning Russian oil imports last week, The Hill reported.
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