The North Carolina congressman Madison Cawthorn will not face immediate disciplinary action over his claim to have been invited to orgies and to have seen Washington figures using cocaine.
“There’s a lot of different things that can happen,” McCarthy added, regarding possible consequences.
“I just told him he’s lost my trust, he’s gonna have to earn it back, and I laid out everything I find is unbecoming. And you can’t just say, ‘You can’t do this again.’ I mean, he’s got a lot of members very upset.”
Cawthorn is a rightwing gadfly, controversialist and Trump supporter. He made the remarks about orgies and drugs in an interview with a podcast, Warrior Poet Society, posted online last week.
Asked if the Netflix hit House of Cards, about amoral Washington politicians and fixers, was anything like reality, Cawthorn said: “The only thing that isn’t accurate about that show is that you could never get a piece of legislation about education passed that quickly.”
The 26-year-old added: “I mean, being kind of a young guy in Washington, where the average age is probably 60 or 70 – you know, I look at all these people, a lot of them that I’ve looked up to through my life – I’ve always paid attention to politics.
“Then all of the sudden you get invited to, ‘Well, hey, we’re going to have kind of a sexual get together at one of our homes, you should come.’
“I’m like, ‘What did you just ask me to come to?’ And then you realise they are asking you to come to an orgy.”
The Republican also claimed: “You know, some of the people that are leading on the movement to try and remove addiction in our country and then you watch them do, you know, a key bump of cocaine right in front of you and it’s like, ‘Wow, this is wild.’”
“Key bump” is a slang term for a small amount of cocaine.
McCarthy met Cawthorn with the Republican chief whip, Steve Scalise, in attendance. According to the minority leader, Cawthorn admitted some of his remarks had been untrue or exaggerated.
“In the interview,” McCarthy said, “he claims he watched people do cocaine. Then when he comes in he … says he thinks he saw maybe a staffer in a parking garage from 100 yards away.
“It’s just frustrating. There’s no evidence behind his statements … I told him you can’t make statements like that, as a member of Congress, that affect everybody else and the country as a whole.”
Cawthorn did not immediately comment.
McCarthy fielded complaints about Cawthorn’s remarks from numerous House Republicans. Senators weighed in too. But on Wednesday McCarthy and Scalise told reporters they would wait to see how Cawthorn behaves before considering disciplinary action.
Scalise said: “Obviously, the ball’s in his court in terms of how to respond but we were very clear with the concerns we had.”
Cawthorn is a vocal member of the powerful far right of the House Republican caucus. McCarthy is aiming to become speaker next year.
On Wednesday a prominent House Democrat, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, asked on Twitter why “Republicans are acting so shocked by Cawthorn’s alleged revelations about their party.
“One of their members [Matt Gaetz of Florida, another far-right congressman] is being investigated for sex trafficking a minor and they’ve been pretty OK w[ith] that. They issued more consequences to members who voted to impeach Trump.”