Washington — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy “a moron” for criticizing the reinstitution of a mask mandate in the House of Representatives.
“He’s such a moron,” Pelosi said as she entered an SUV outside the Capitol Wednesday morning, after a reporter asked her to react to McCarthy’s claim that the mandate was “not based on science.”
Pelosi had previously said that the mask mandate is within “the purview of the Capitol physician. I have nothing to say about that except we honor it.”
McCarthy later shot back that Pelosi should explain how the mandate is based in science.
“If she’s so brilliant, can she tell me where the science in the building changes between the House and the Senate?” he said, referring to the lack of a mask mandate in the upper chamber. “If she knows so much science, explain to me where the science changes in the Rotunda.”
Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill said in a tweet that Pelosi’s office couldn’t verify that she had in fact called McCarthy a moron because of the poor audio quality in video from the interaction, but that the speaker believes that “saying a mask requirement is ‘not a decision based on science’ is moronic.”
In a press conference later in the day, CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave asked about the comment, and Pelosi didn’t deny the name calling, but didn’t repeat it either. “To say that wearing a mask is not based on science, I think, is not wise and that was my comment. And that is all I am going to say about that,” the speaker said.
The House attending physician on Tuesday evening sent a memo to lawmakers and staff saying they should wear a mask inside the Capitol whenever they’re around others, regardless of their vaccination status. The memo specified that masks must be worn on the House floor, and came hours after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on mask-wearing.
Several Republican lawmakers defied the House physician’s mandate Wednesday morning. Congressman Chip Roy, a Republican from Texas, introduced a motion to adjourn over the mask requirement.
“Do the vaccines work or not? Do the masks work or don’t work?” Roy said. “This institution is a sham. We should adjourn and shut this place down.”
The measure failed by a vote of 197 to 225, with seven Republicans voting against it.