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Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Tuesday he's "lost confidence" in Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) during a moment of candor caught on a hot mic, a tape reviewed by Axios shows.

What he's saying: "I think she's got real problems," McCarthy told Steve Doocy off-air ahead of a live "Fox and Friends" interview. "I've had it with ... I've had it with her. You know, I've lost confidence. ... Well, someone just has to bring a motion, but I assume that will probably take place."

  • The comments, made amid seeming cross-talk with Doocy, outlined how the House conference chair could be removed by a vote from the chamber's Republican members.
  • McCarthy's comments contrasted from the nearly 6-minute, on-air interview where he told Doocy he'd heard members concerned about Cheney's ability to carry out her job as a party leader.
  • "This is about whether the Republican Party is going to perpetuate lies about the 2020 election and attempt to whitewash what happened on Jan. 6," Cheney spokesperson Jeremy Adler said in response to McCarthy's aired Fox interview. "Liz will not do that. That is the issue."

Why it matters: To date, McCarthy has left some of his more pointed criticisms to his lieutenants, but this firmly puts him on the record — even if it was accidental.

  • Top Republicans told Axios' Jonathan Swan and Alayna Treene last week that Cheney could be removed within a month.

Editor's note: Updated with link to audio of McCarthy's comments.

Go deeper

Updated May 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

McCarthy: House GOP has "no concern" about Cheney's vote to impeach Trump

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) claimed on "Fox & Friends" Tuesday that the push to oust Rep. Liz Cheney from GOP leadership is not related to her vote to impeach former President Trump, but rather her "ability to carry out the message."

Why it matters: Top Republicans have suggested that Cheney could be removed as GOP conference chair within a month, with Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), leader of the largest conservative caucus in the House, telling Axios that her continued criticisms of Trump are "an unwelcome distraction."

Liz Cheney refuses to back down on Trump criticism

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican on the House, tweeted Monday that anyone promoting "THE BIG LIE" that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump is "turning their back on the rule of law" and "poisoning our democratic system."

Why it matters: Top Republicans are now openly suggesting that Cheney could be removed from her leadership position because of her criticism of Trump, who remains the most popular figure in the GOP. Cheney was one of ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

WSJ editorial board: GOP deserves to be in minority if Cheney is punished

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The Wall Street Journal's editorial board warned on Tuesday that "if bowing before all things Trump is the litmus test for being a loyal Republican, the party should get used to continued losses in the suburbs."

Why it matters: The GOP effort to oust Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from leadership is gaining momentum, after the No. 3 House Republican doubled down on her criticisms of former President Trump, whom she voted to impeach in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection.