House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) on Saturday joked about hitting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) with the Speaker’s gavel if GOP gains control of the House in the 2022 midterm elections, and he takes over her position as House speaker.

“I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel. It’ll be hard not to hit her with it,” McCarthy said.

The House minority leader was at a Tennessee Republican Party fundraiser Saturday night when he joked about using violence against Pelosi, a remark that quickly drew backlash from Democrats.

Soon after the audio was released, Rep. Hakeem Jefferies (D-New York) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-California) called for McCarthy to apologize or resign.

“Dear [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,” Lieu tweeted.

“Violence against women is no laughing matter. Apologize,” Jefferies tweeted.

Following the controversy, McCarthy’s spokesperson claimed that the minority leader was “obviously joking.”

The feud between McCarthy and Pelosi in the House intensified last week after McCarthy complained about a mask mandate that the House physician has reintroduced.

In response to McCarthy, Pelosi told reporters that “he’s such a moron.”

Tensions between two party leaders in the House have been escalating amid the clash in selecting members for the special committee investigating Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Last month, McCarthy called Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois), “Pelosi Republicans” as the Speaker handpicked them to be on the special committee. 

This remark comes as two of McCarthy’s choices were rejected by Pelosi, who refused to accept congressmen who had promoted conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.

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