An angry call from Fox News host Tucker Carlson and public swipes from Donald Trump Jr. and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) over an anonymous quote in a story are whipping up a frenzy over the race for what would be the No. 3 leadership slot if Republicans win the House.
Carlson, Trump, Jr. and other figures in former President Trump’s orbit are going after Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and a contender for House GOP whip, over a quotation from an unnamed source in a Daily Beast article published last week.
The quotation mentioned Buckley Carlson, the 25-year-old son of the Fox News host, who is an aide to Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee and a rival contender for whip.
Emmer’s team has strongly denied that anyone connected to the Minnesota Republican is behind the quote, but they are in a tough position in trying to prove a negative.
“Chairman Emmer and his staff have never attacked any other members’ staff. Period. These baseless accusations are meant to distract and divide Republicans. Our focus is on retaking the majority and firing Nancy Pelosi,” NRCC Communications Director Michael McAdams said in a statement.
The quote in question came from an unnamed source looking over the dynamics of the three-way race for House majority whip. Emmer, Banks and Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.), who is currently chief deputy whip, are vying for the post.
“Deep down, he dies to be liked by the Establishment. He hires Tucker Carlson’s son, a 24-year-old kid, to be his communications director,” states the controversial quotation, which is cited to a GOP strategist.
Trump Jr., who has started to be more open about his preference for Banks being in leadership, immediately blamed Emmer’s team for planting the quote and said in a tweet that the move was “pathetic.”
The Fox News host on Friday called Emmer directly to demand he name which staff member was responsible for the quote, or else he would assume Emmer himself is to blame, Axios reported Sunday.
Axios said Emmer also tried to shift blame to another House GOP leadership staff member, but Carlson still believes Emmer’s team was behind the quote.
GOP firebrand and Trump ally Greene, as well as Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, also took swipes at Emmer over the weekend.
“I stand with Buckley Carlson,” Greene said in a tweet on Sunday, following up with another: “Consultants at national party political action committees should only focus on helping their party’s candidates win. They shouldn’t fund or not fund races based on candidate’s conservative views. And they should never attack Member’s staff to left wing activist bloggers. Ever.”
Kirk also accused Emmer of being part of a group of “establishment swamp creatures” in a tweet on Sunday, and endorsing Banks for the post to create “a real MAGA majority.”
One GOP member, however, says he is tuning out the noise.
“It won’t influence my vote, because all I’m concerned about right now is myself getting elected,” said Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), who said he has not committed to supporting any whip contender yet. “I’m gonna vote for the person who I think is going to do the best job as whip.”
“I understand the whole psychological game that people are playing, but generally this stuff is just stirred up by folks inside the beltway,” Burchett added.
The elder Carlson has a reputation of being fiercely protective of and loyal to his family in the press, and angering the influential conservative host is thought to be political malpractice among Republicans.
An alleged mention of Buckley Carlson was a brief flashpoint in the shadow race for House GOP whip months ago. That has raised suspicions that Buckley Carlson controversies are being manufactured to go after rivals to Banks.
A Politico story in May said allies of Donald Trump Jr. had confronted Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who considered a possible contender for whip but has since decided to seek another term as House GOP conference chairwoman, about an effort to plant negative stories about Banks that allegedly included bringing up Buckley’s name. The outlet added that it was “unable to confirm the veracity of the pro-Stefanik whisper campaign against Banks,” and Stefanik’s team vigorously denied any of her team brought up the Fox News host’s son.
Consultants connected to Trump Jr. are also running a PAC started last month supported by Banks. The group has raised $2 million and is helping a smattering of House GOP candidates, and is serving as counter to an argument that Banks is not a big enough of a fundraising powerhouse compared to Emmer and Ferguson.
No matter who is behind the quote, the controversy and attacks have thrown a late wrench into the race for a position that is not officially open yet.
A source close to Carlson said that host has been bombarded in recent days with information about Emmer’s background that clashes with the host’s ideology, such as starting a Congressional Somalia Caucus with former Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), creating the potential to spook GOP members out of publicly supporting Emmer if they are wary of getting on Carlson’s bad side.
It is unclear, though, whether fear of crossing Carlson or MAGA allies will make any measurable impact on GOP members who will vote to elect the next House GOP whip in a secret ballot soon after the midterm election if Republicans win.
Another GOP member supportive of Emmer who requested anonymity to speak candidly said that the public drama could backfire on Banks.
“People are like, ‘We don’t need this. This is mudslinging,’” the GOP member said. “People may just say, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna vote this way or that way,’ but they’re gonna go in and vote however they damn well please, because there’s no way they can be attributed to a vote since it’s a secret ballot.”
Via The Hill