House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he doesn’t believe Russian President Vladimir Putin ever paid President Donald Trump or Republican California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, telling reporters his 2016 comments were “a bad joke.”
McCarthy’s clarification come after The Washington Post reported he made the allegations shortly before Trump was nominated — telling his colleagues, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump — swear to God.” According to WaPo, House Speaker Paul Ryan asked members to keep the comments private.
“It’s a bad joke, that’s all there was to it,” he told reporters Wednesday.
McCarthy said in retrospect he regrets making the joke, asserting he wasn’t making a serious accusation.
“I don’t even remember it transpiring, it was a simple joke,” he continued. “It was a bad thing to joke about — that’s all there is to it.”
Rohrabacher said he isn’t taking offense to the comments, adding he believes the majority leader made the comments in jest.
“He does that — he sort of makes jokes like that, there’s nothing wrong with that,” he told reporters. “It would be wrong for everybody to think that was a news story.”
Rohrabacher said he’s talked to McCarthy since the story dropped, adding members of congress misspeak often, and his remark shouldn’t be taken seriously.
“You have to be very careful when you’re using humor,” he continued.
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