McCarthy was speaking to a group of high-ranking Republicans including House Speaker Paul Ryan when he said, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.”
Dana Rohrabacher is a Republican congressman who is said to be a backer of Putin and Russia.
A few of those laughed at his initial statement which prompted McCarthy to say: “Swear to God.”
Ryan is said to have ended the discussion at that point and told his staff, “No leaks … This is how we know we’re a real family here.” Ryan’s response was also said to have been met with laughter.
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The discussion reportedly took place just after Russian hacking allegations began to surface and the two Republican leaders were speaking after having met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman.
GOP spokesperson Brendan Buck initially denied the conversation ever occurred in an interview with the Post. But when he was told that the conversation was caught on tape, he said it was “clearly an attempt at humor.”
McCarthy spoke to NBC on Wednesday night and also said, “It’s a bad attempt at a joke.”
Rohrabacher on Wednesday told reporters that McCarthy’s quip was a joke.
“The trouble is, when you ever try to be funny, it is really taken seriously by a third party, and that’s what’s happened here,” he said.
Global News does not have a copy of the tape and could not confirm authenticity or gauge whether McCarthy was joking.
With files from Reuters