Kevin McCarthy against a blue and salmon render of the Wall Street Journal logo
Andrea Austria / Media Matters

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The Wall Street Journal is helping Kevin McCarthy write a revisionist history of his interactions with President Biden

The newspaper’s allegations that Biden was “slipping” relied heavily on McCarthy, who had claimed the president was “smart” and “professional” after meetings with him

The Wall Street Journal used a quote from ousted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to criticize President Joe Biden’s mental acuity, despite the former speaker’s previous positive assessments of the president. The outlet also seemingly cut the positive on-the-record statements of several Democratic politicians from the final version of the article. McCarthy’s contradictory statement follows his apparent attempts to rewrite the history of his time in Congress and his interactions with President Biden, as well as criticism from some in right-wing media who said he “gave away the ranch” in negotiations with Biden and Democrats and questioned whether he was “outsmarted” by the president.

  • The Wall Street Journal relied on McCarthy and two anonymous individuals claiming Biden was inconsistently coherent during meetings, while seemingly ignoring on-the-record statements from several Democrats claiming the opposite

    • According to a June 4 article from The Wall Street Journal, “then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and two others familiar with the talks” claimed that Biden’s “demeanor and command of the details seemed to shift from one day to the next” while negotiating a debt ceiling increase in 2023. The article also quotes McCarthy as stating that Biden is “not the same person” as he was when he served as vice president. [The Wall Street Journal, 6/4/24]
    • Several Democratic officials have said that their on-the-record comments providing a positive assessment of Biden’s acuity were omitted from the published piece. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), who was present for the negotiations with Biden and McCarthy claimed The Wall Street Journal omitted his on-the-record comments and that “Republican sources didn't raise these issues in real time, day after, or week after. Trying to do so now reeks of political hit job.” [Media Matters, 6/5/24]
  • McCarthy, who Republicans ousted after making a deal with Biden and Democrats to avoid a government shutdown, has been seemingly attempting to present an alternative history of his time in Congress

    • McCarthy was ousted from the speakership partially over his willingness to work with Democrats and the Biden administration in order to avert a government shutdown. McCarthy and the Biden administration struck a deal that raised the debt ceiling and prevented a government shutdown; several Freedom Caucus members then seemingly used it as pretense to file a motion for McCarthy to vacate his position. [The Associated Press, 10/3/23; CBS News, 10/1/23]
    • McCarthy recently gave a talk at Georgetown University, which Politico noted contained a “selective retelling” of his time in Congress and had “a few big omissions.” According to Politico, McCarthy attempted to whitewash his election denialism by asserting that “a challenge doesn’t mean you’re overturning something” and misleadingly equating former President Donald Trump’s campaign to overturn the 2020 election with challenges to the 2000 presidential election. [Politico, 4/14/24]
    • McCarthy has shown himself to be a dishonest person, widely distrusted among his colleagues in Congress. McCarthy has made a number of false claims in public comments about the debt ceiling, IRS funding, a nonexistent ban on gas stoves, and the FBI’s search for classified documents at Trump's Mar-a-Lago property. [Media Matters, 6/5/24; CNN, 1/24/23; The Sacramento Bee, 10/3/23; Ventura County Star, 5/2/22]
  • McCarthy previously claimed that Biden was “smart” and “professional” during meetings, contradicting his recent statement to The Wall Street Journal

    • On NBC’s Morning Joe, co-host Mika Brzezinski highlighted reporting from Politico that McCarthy had “privately [told] allies that he found the president sharp and substantive in their conversations.” Brzezinski also noted similar reporting from The New York Times that McCarthy “told allies that he has found Mr. Biden to be mentally sharp in meetings.” [NBC, Morning Joe, 6/5/24; Politico, 10/4/23; The New York Times, 3/18/23]
    • During budget negotiations with Biden, McCarthy told Punchbowl News’ Max Cohen that the president was “Very professional, very smart. Very tough at the same time.” [Twitter/X, 5/28/23; The Hill, 5/31/23]
    • While negotiating the deal, McCarthy remarked that the tone of the negotiations were “productive” and that the two had a “very good discussion.” At a May 31, 2023, press conference after a deal had been reached, McCarthy stated that he “respects anybody in the Office [of the President]” and that he “respects him [Biden].” [The Hill, 5/31/23; The Wall Street Journal, 5/22/23; C-SPAN, 5/31/23]
  • During 2023 debt ceiling negotiations, right-wing media slammed McCarthy for supposedly caving to Democrats and questioned whether he’d been “outsmarted” by Biden

    • On Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria, anchor Maria Bartiromo noted that “we're all talking about Joe Biden's mental capacity, it seems every day,” and asked Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) if “Joe Biden outsmarted Kevin McCarthy?” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 6/1/23]
    • In a series of posts on the right-wing social media platform Gettr, former Trump adviser and current right-wing podcaster Steve Bannon decried the deal as a “total cave” to Democrats’ wishes and called McCarthy a “Total and Complete Sell-Out.” In a statement to Newsweek, Bannon said the debt ceiling agreement was “not acceptable” for conservatives, adding, “This shows no leadership whatsoever.” [Gettr, 5/27/23, 5/27/23; Newsweek, 5/28/23]
    • Appearing on Newsmax’s Eric Bolling: The Balance, former Trump adviser Peter Navarro called the debt ceiling deal “the McCarthy Memorial Day Weekend Surrender,” and said that McCarthy “got basically nothing” and “took the first off-ramp.” [Newsmax, Eric Bolling: The Balance, 4/29/23]
    • Former Fox Business host Lou Dobbs criticized McCarthy in a social media post, stating, “The Speaker went to a horse-whipping, not a negotiation! … He got nothing and is waiting for a participation trophy!” In his post, Dobbs called McCarthy and other GOP leaders involved in the debt ceiling bill “collaborators.” [Twitter/X, 5/29/23]
    • Right-wing X (formerly Twitter) account Catturd stated in a social media post, “If you didn't know Kevin McCarthy would cave on the debt limit - you don't know Kevin McCarthy.” [Twitter/X, 5/29/23]
    • Former Newsmax host Eric Bolling said McCarthy “gave away the ranch” to Democrats with the current agreement. Bolling also claimed that McCarthy “may have handed Joe Biden a second term” with the deal. [Newsmax, Eric Bolling: the Balance, 5/30/23]