Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, is the current majority leader in the House, and was the heavy favorite to replace the departing John Boehner as Speaker. That was, at least, until he suddenly removed his name from consideration today, leaving fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill in “chaos” and “tears.”

McCarthy announced that he would no longer seek the position as Speaker at about 12:30 today. It was so unexpected that several of McCarthy’s colleagues in the House told reporters that people were “stunned” and in tears. Peter King, who normally only opens his mouth to tell a lie, reported to the Washington Post’s Robert Costa that members of the House were crying in a cloakroom.

Did McCarthy simply not want what is now commonly considered “the worst job in “Washington,” or was there more to it? Very shortly after McCarthy’s announcements, conservative-interest sites began reporting that a rumor has been circulating, with increasing intensity in recent weeks, that McCarthy was engaged in an affair with North Carolina republican House member Renee Ellmers.

Brietbart News stated that the rumor has been “circulating” for “some time,” while Red State’s Erick Erickson, in an article that has for some reason since been deleted, reported that a “guy out in America who has emails for a massive number of members of Congress” recently sent a mass email to members with links that allege the affair. Erickson described the rumor as becoming “louder buzz over the past few days with more and more people on and off the hill talking about it.”

The earliest online evidence the rumor seems to be Got News, the website run by controversial rightwing muckraker Charles C. Johnson, who, on Sept. 25, weeks before the rumor was reported elsewhere, wrote that McCarthy and Ellmers were in a “long running” affair that was “something of an open secret in Washington.”

Adding onto the speculation is the existence of a letter written by Walter Jones, a Republican also from North Carolina, and sent to Republican Conference chairman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers on Wednesday, arguing that “Republican leaders or potential Republican leaders must step down because of skeletons in their closets.”

McCarthy and Ellmers—both of whom are married—have so far denied the existence of the affair, but a source who spoke to Gawker said that he witnessed the two together, acting affectionately, at a fundraiser a few months ago.

“The best way to describe it would be Joe Biden shoulder massage thing,” the source said. “But without any of the awkwardness. I don’t do that to anyone but my wife.”

The same source said that he has been hearing the rumor for at least six months, meaning it at least predates the Johnson blog post. Today, it has spread so fast that an IP address registered to Homeland Security was logged altering Ellmers’ Wikipedia page to mention the affair.

Gawker has reached out to the offices of McCarthy and Ellmers and will update this story if they respond. If you’ve heard anything about Kevin McCarthy’s resignation and/or his alleged affair, or have any insight into the origin of the rumor, email me at

[image via Getty]

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