House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) poses with pollster Frank Luntz on the podium in the Quicken Loans Arena at the 2016 Republican National Congress in Cleveland, Ohio on Monday, July 19, 2016.
Bill Clark | CQ Appeal, Inc. | Getty Images
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House’s top Republican, admitted Tuesday that he had rented a room for “a few months” from GOP pollster and business consultant Frank Luntz.
But McCarthy denied, during an appearance on Fox News, that there was a conflict of interest sharing a house with longtime pal Luntz, a Republican affairs and corporate communications consultant.
McCarthy’s giggling confirmation came the day after outraged Fox News host Tucker Carlson first covered the California Republican’s weird way of life with Luntz in downtown Washington. McCarthy told Fox News that he paid Luntz a “fair market price” for the room.
Records verified by CNBC show that Luntz purchased this three bedroom, 3½ bath, 1,740 square foot penthouse for more than $ 1 million in 2018.
According to a property site, the pad has “Italian devices” and a “roof terrace”.
Carlson had wide-eyed Monday night expressed astonishment that Luntz – who had been a verbal target of his lately – appeared as McCarthy’s landlord.
Carlson’s anger stems from his belief that Luntz is “effectively a Democrat” – who, according to Carlson, is also effectively “lobbying for some of the world’s leftist corporations” – while listening to the “Republican Party leadership.”
“Make no mistake, his views bear no resemblance to the views of actual Republican voters,” Carlson grumbled on his show.
Carlson began teeing Luntz last week after Axios quoted the pollster as saying, “Republicans are more to immigrants than the elites believe.”
Carlson said on his show that he was alerted to McCarthy, who had stayed with Luntz, but McCarthy’s spokeswoman almost giggled when she first denied the tip on Monday morning.
She said McCarthy either slept on his office couch or rented hotel rooms in Washington, according to Carlson.
But that spokeswoman confirmed the tip in a text on Carlson’s show two hours later, saying, “Because of the [coronavirus] In the pandemic, McCarthy rented a room in Washington at a fair market price from Frank. “
Carlson showed the message on his show and then said, “Now you know why they’re listening to Frank Luntz and not you.”
When Fox and Friends presenter Steve Doocy asked McCarthy on Tuesday morning if he wanted to stay with Luntz – “What’s the matter with it?” – The legislature smiled.
“I didn’t know how controversial this was,” said McCarthy.
“Frank has been a friend of mine for more than 30 years.”
McCarthy then announced his use of Luntz’s residence to Democrats, who are moving offices in the House of Representatives – not the Covid-19 pandemic, as his spokeswoman Carlson said.
“When the Democrats took over, they started moving houses,” McCarthy told Doocy.
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Democrats won majority control in the House two years ago. So it’s not clear how a re-configuration of the offices resulted in McCarthy staying with Luntz more recently.
“Yes, I rented a room with Frank for a few months, but don’t worry, I’m going back to my normal location … back to the couch in my office,” McCarthy told Doocy.
“We paid market rents,” said McCarthy.
CNBC reached out to McCarthy’s office to ask exactly how long he stayed with Luntz and how much he paid the pollster.
“Frank is not a lobbyist, Frank is a friend,” McCarthy told Doocy when the Fox News host pointed out Carlson’s criticism. “I don’t see there is a problem there.”
Luntz, a frequent guest on CNBC, didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
– Additional coverage from CNBC’s Brian Schwartz and Christina Wilkie