As he makes his case to become the next Speaker of the House, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has been touting his party’s role in damaging Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s reputation by creating the House Select Committee on Benghazi. And now, he says, he wants Republicans to do the same thing to Planned Parenthood.
In two television appearances Monday night, McCarthy — one of the top contenders to replace outgoing Speaker John Boehner — suggested that the committee’s investigation into the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was directly responsible for Clinton’s declining poll numbers. These came despite previous assertions from House Republican leaders that the investigation was a non-partisan effort “not about targeting Clinton, but finding facts” about the 2012 attack.
But in one interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, McCarthy said the select committee process worked so well at discrediting Clinton that it should also be used to build support for defunding Planned Parenthood at the federal level.
“When you look at the poll numbers of Hillary Clinton, they’ve dropped, unfavorables pretty high,” McCarthy said. “If we really want to be able to show what this Planned Parenthood has done — you see a few videos, so there’s real question — have the select committee get all the information, all the hearings, so the public can see that.”
Though the Benghazi Select Committee spent years and millions of taxpayer dollars investigating whether Clinton mishandled the events leading up to and following the 2012 attack, it did not find substantive evidence backing up those claims. In fact, a report commissioned by the committee disproved conspiracy theories about that night, found little evidence of negligence, and no intelligence failure on the part of the CIA.
Still, McCarthy thinks the committee had a lot to do with Clinton’s declining poll numbers. On Monday night, Fox News host Sean Hannity agreed.
“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee,” McCarthy said, speaking to Hannity. “What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought and made that happen.”
“I agree,” Hannity said. “That’s something good, I’ll give you credit for that.”
Now, House Republicans are trying to eliminate all federal funding for Planned Parenthood based on similarly shaky claims. The call for defunding the women’s health organization stem from sting videos released this summer, which accuse Planned Parenthood of profiting off the sale of fetal tissue from abortions. However, there has been no substantive evidence to back up that claim, and at least one state attorney general-led investigation has found no evidence of wrongdoing.
On Wednesday, some of McCarthy's Republican colleagues in the House sharply criticized him for suggesting that the Benghazi Committee was created to undermine Hillary Clinton, according to CNN.
CNN reported that House Republicans were privately "outraged" by the remarks, saying they raised questions about McCarthy's "gaffe-prone nature" and made them concerned about his leadership chops.
"Being a majority leader is different than being the speaker," Rep. Chris Stewart reportedly said. "There is a bigger microscope."