In the hours before House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) abruptly withdrew his candidacy to be the next speaker of the House, he was sent an email from a conservative activist threatening to expose an alleged affair with a colleague. The subject line: “Kevin, why not resign like Bob Livingston?”

The email, sent just after 8 a.m. on Thursday, came from Steve Baer, a Chicago-based GOP donor known for mass-emailing conservative figures and Republican lawmakers. It was addressed to McCarthy and numerous others, including the personal account of Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), who conservative media sites have suggested is tied romantically to McCarthy.

McCarthy has brushed off the affair allegation. After announcing that he would not seek the speaker’s post on Thursday, he was asked about Wednesday’s cryptic letter from Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), which asked that “any candidate for speaker of the House, majority leader, and majority whip withdraw himself from the leadership election if there are any misdeeds he has committed since joining Congress that will embarrass himself, the Republican conference, and the House of Representatives if they become public.”

“No. No. Come on,” said McCarthy. His decision to withdraw, he said, was to ensure that fellow GOP members didn’t have a tough vote. “For us to unite, we probably need a fresh face,” he said.

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