House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy slammed Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez on Wednesday for his personal attack on White House chief of staff John Kelly.
“What is disgraceful is to attack the character of an honorable man,” McCarthy told reporters Wednesday. “I believe Rep. Gutierrez owes General Kelly and his family an apology.”
Earlier this week, Gutierrez called Kelly — a retired Marine Corps general who succeeded Reince Priebus as President Donald Trump’s chief of staff — a “disgrace to the uniform he used to wear” for standing by while Trump rescinded protections for undocumented immigrants who arrived as minors.
The comment prompted a sharp rebuke from Republicans and some Democrats, who noted Kelly served in the military for decades and whose son died while serving in Afghanistan.
Kelly fired back in a Fox News interview, saying “empty barrels make the most noise.”
“As far as the congressman and other irresponsible members of Congress are concerned, they have the luxury of saying what they want as they do nothing and have almost no responsibility,” Kelly said.
Gutierrez reiterated his criticism Tuesday when asked to clarify his issue with Kelly
“He’s a politician, okay, not a general. I don’t see a uniform. He’s a politician who works for Donald Trump, a politician who didn’t stand up when the president of the United States attacked a real war hero, John McCain,” Gutiérrez said, according to the Washington Post.
Kelly, who was secretary of homeland security before Trump appointed him chief of staff, has had a testy relationship with congressional Democrats for months.
Though Kelly was confirmed to his previous post 88-11 in the Senate, many Senate Democrats expressed frustration that he hadn’t curbed Trump’s harshest instincts on immigration. He told House Democrats in March that he was the “best thing that happened to DACA” — the Obama-era program providing relief for young undocumented immigrants that Trump has given Congress six months to extend.