As Democrats continued Thursday to hammer Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy for his Benghazi committee comments, Speaker John A. Boehner decided to step in.
Not once in his four-paragraph statement, however, does the Ohio Republican mention McCarthy. The Ohio Republican also chose not to allude to the Fox News interview in which McCarthy — the favorite to succeed him as speaker — credited the select committee with undermining 2016 presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton by discovering the private email server she used as secretary of State.
Instead, Boehner sought to hammer home the message House Republicans have tried desperately to adhere to since the committee's 2014 founding: The panel is charged with impartially probing the circumstances surrounding the deadly September 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
"This investigation has never been about former Secretary of State Clinton and never will be," Boehner said. "Indeed, the Select Committee’s very existence is only the result of the Obama administration’s obstruction of routine congressional investigations and its failure to properly comply with subpoenas and document requests.
"The fact remains that Secretary Clinton and the Obama administration have done everything they can to delay, derail, and stop this investigation," Boehner continued. "They’ve failed to turn over documents in a timely way, and their own actions have needlessly prolonged this panel’s work. The members of this committee have worked diligently and professionally to fulfill this important mission and they will continue to do so."
Boehner's decision not to overtly make his statement about defending McCarthy is notable, given the barrage of criticism from Democrats — and from some Republicans — that the California lawmaker should have chosen his words more carefully if he wants to lead the House GOP.
Just a day earlier, top Republicans such as Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions of Texas and Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah were openly questioning the propriety of the McCarthy comment.
"Those statements are just absolutely inappropriate, they should be withdrawn, Mr. McCarthy should apologize," Chaffetz said.
"“I would not have drawn that conclusion myself to say that publicly," Sessions told CQ Roll Call .
The controversy couldn't come at a worse time for the California Republican, one week before he goes before his GOP colleagues and asks for their support as the party's candidate for speaker.
McCarthy's press shop has tried to re-emphasize the Benghazi committee's mission rather than try to contextualize or explain the boss's comments.
“The Select Committee on Benghazi has always been focused on getting the facts about the attacks on our diplomatic facilities in Libya that lead to the death of four Americans. This was the right thing to do and the Committee has worked judiciously and honestly,” said McCarthy spokesman Matt Sparks. "These inquiries have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the consequences of what the former Secretary has done and her confusing, conflicting, and demonstrably false responses."