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Burchett was talking to a reporter following a closed-door Republican conference meeting when the ousted speaker walked past behind him and hit him in the back. The Tennessee Republican, who was one of eight GOP members who voted to remove McCarthy in October, said it was purposeful.
“I was one of eight that voted him out,” Burchett told reporters Tuesday morning, calling McCarthy a “bully.”
“He’s mean and he knows it,” Burchett added, believing the exchange to be personal. “It’s not very surprising. It was uncool. A guy throws a rock over the fence when he was a kid and runs home and hides behind his momma’s skirt. He’s got his security detail around, he knows nobody’s gonna do anything to him.”
Burchett also told CNN that he ran after the former House speaker on Tuesday.
“I was like, what the heck? Why’d you do that? Because I can say if you’ve ever been hit in the kidneys, it’s a little different. You don’t have to hit very hard to cause a little bit of pain,” the Tennessee Republican told the outlet, calling the exchange “a little heated.”
USA TODAY has reached out to McCarthy’s office for comment.
McCarthy told CNN that the hallway where he passed Burchett was tight, denying that he shoved or elbowed him.
McCarthy said in an interview that aired Sunday on CNN that he was particularly surprised at Burchett's vote to oust him, considering Burchett supported him in his bid for the speakership in January.The former speaker said Burchett "changed during the time" and was chasing "the press and the personality."
Burchett along with a handful of GOP rebels led by conservative hardliner Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., voted to eject McCarthy from the speakership in part for working with Democrats to avert a government shutdown. McCarthy has said he does not regret his decision to fund the government and would do it again if he knew it would have cost him the gavel.
After the Tuesday incident, Gaetz filed a formal ethics complaint against McCarthy, accusing McCarthy of assaulting Burchett and violating lawmakers' code of conduct.
Former Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger in his book "Renegade," released earlier this year, said McCarthy had previously hit him with his shoulder while in Congress.
"As he shoulder-checked me again, I thought to myself, 'What a child,' and felt some anger and thought to say something," Kinzinger wrote. "Instead, I just chalked it up to the immature behavior that he favored and that had become more and more common inside the chamber."