The competitive race for House GOP whip has turned nasty in the House, with former President Donald Trump’s top allies taking public jabs and making angry private phone calls to one of the top contenders for the No. 3 leadership post.
Last week, Fox News host Tucker Carlson had a heated phone call with GOP Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, who is running for whip if Republicans regain the majority, according to a source familiar with the conversation.
The source said Carlson accused Emmer of planting an anonymous negative reference about Carlson’s 25-year-old son Buckley in a Daily Beast story about Republican Rep. Jim Banks, Indiana, one of Emmer’s primary opponents in the whip race.
Buckley Carlson Banks works for the Republican Study Committee, a conservative congressional caucus.
A Fox News spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.
In the phone call, first reported by Axios, Emmer strongly denied Carlson’s allegation that he or his staff were behind the anonymous reference to Buckley Carlson in the Daily Beast article. Emmer’s spokesman also dismissed the accusation in a statement.
“Chairman Emmer and his staff have never attacked another member’s staff. Period. These baseless accusations are intended to distract and divide Republicans,” said Michael McAdams, director of campaign communications for the House GOP, which Emmer now leads. “Our the focus is on regaining the majority and firing Nancy Pelosi.”
Despite Emmer’s refusal, other people in the Trump world have angrily joined the drama to support Carlson and Banks. Donald Trump Jr., who is close to Banks, tweeted that Emmer is a “pathetic coward,” while Georgia primary Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a key Trump ally, tweeted, “I stand with Buckley Carlson.”
The GOP whip race is a three-way race between Emmer, Banks and Rep. Drew Ferguson, making it the closest and most competitive GOP leadership race. Republicans will hold internal leadership elections after the term, likely in November.
As the race heats up, GOP Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas — who is backing Banks — warned the candidates against attacking each other.
“I think that’s a step in the wrong direction. I don’t see how it benefits the candidates when you start getting negativity about other candidates,” Nehls told CNN. “I wouldn’t encourage that at all. And I think that would show a sign of desperation.”