House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made a twisted joke on Saturday about how it would be “hard” not to strike Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) with her own gavel if he ever replaces her as speaker of the House.
He made the startling comment after being given an oversized gavel by members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation at the Statemen’s Dinner, a GOP fundraising event in Nashville.
“I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel. It will be hard not to hit her with it, but I will bang it down,” he said.
The remark, which was met by laughter from the 1,400 gathered GOP donors, was recorded by Main Street Nashville reporter Vivian Jones, who posted it on Twitter. The gavel presented to McCarthy was labeled with the words “Fire Pelosi.”
— Vivian Jones (@Vivian_E_Jones) August 1, 2021
Pelosi’s spokesperson Drew Hammill quickly condemned McCarthy’s comment.
“A threat of violence to someone who was a target of a January 6th assassination attempt from your fellow Trump supporters is irresponsible and disgusting,” he said in a tweet.
— Drew Hammill (@Drew_Hammill) August 1, 2021
Pelosi apparently struck a nerve last week when she called McCarthy a “moron” over his opposition of a new mask mandate in the House of Representatives due to rising cases of the delta variant of COVID-19.
Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) was outraged by McCarthy’s comments, drawing a contrast to Pelosi’s past support for the Violence Against Women Act. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them,” she tweeted.
Speaker Pelosi used her courage and moral compass to lead us to pass the Violence Against Woman Act. Kevin McCarthy thinks joking about hitting a woman is funny. When someone shows you who they are, believe them. https://t.co/AZQxM6sNU0
— Rep. Val Demings (@RepValDemings) August 1, 2021
And that was just the start of the criticism against McCarthy from his congressional colleagues.
Dear @GOPLeader McCarthy: Don’t you think America has had enough political violence? You should never be encouraging or threatening or joking about causing violence to anyone, including the Speaker of the House. You need to apologize for your statement, or resign. https://t.co/jdP2bcmr5c
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) August 1, 2021
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) August 1, 2021
— David Cicilline (@davidcicilline) August 1, 2021
— Rep. Debbie Dingell (@RepDebDingell) August 1, 2021
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.