House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy very, very, very abruptly dropped out of the race to become House Speaker just now. Chaos reigns. Gossipers on the right side of the aisle are heavily implying that McCarthy bailed to avoid having an alleged extramarital affair with Congresswoman Renee Ellmers of North Carolina made public.

McCarthy is a fairly popular guy in the House and was a favorite to become Speaker; his dropping-out announcement said only that he’s concluded he’s not the one to “unite” the squabbling family of colicky infants that make up the Republican party:

That explanation sounded a little lacking, and the Week notes that several right-leaning sites are advancing a far more Scandal-worthy alternate explanation. Blogger Chuck C. Johnson, who has repeatedly accused Ellmers and McCarthy of having an affair, claimed yesterday to have received a cease-and-desist order from Ellmers’ attorney, ordering him to stop making “false and defamatory” statements about the Congresswoman and calling the rumors “unequivocally and indisputably false.”

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Erick Erickson of Red State writes that the rumor began spreading widely with a scandalous email, sent by a person he identifies only as “a guy out in America who has emails for a massive number of members of Congress and the email addresses of highly influential conservatives outside Congress.”

That email, Erickson says, “began circulating pretty heavily:”

Conservatives were buzzing about it. The first line pointed to the current scandal about Denny Hastert and concluded suggesting that if the rumor about McCarthy and his personal life were true, he was a national security risk.

After that, he notes, Rep. Walter Jones mysteriously demanded that candidates hiding any “misdeeds” go ahead and show themselves out of the race, the kind of misdeeds that could, he said, “embarrass himself, the Republican Conference, and the House of Representatives if they become public.”

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There’s also this oddly resentful tidbit from Ellmers, pointed out by Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller:

Ellmers has been in office since 2011; she describes herself frequently as a “family values” Republican. That fact is making for an embarrassing juxtaposition in this recent edit to her Wikipedia page:

That edit, we were told just now, is traced back to an IP address belonging to the Department of Homeland Security.

Holy shit.

Update: The Wikpedia edit accusing Ellmers of being McCarthy’s affair buddy was removed at 12:45. Interestingly, it doesn’t appear that anyone has attempted to edit/deface McCarthy’s page the same way.


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McCarthy walks out of the nomination vote on Capitol Hill after announcing he would withdraw from the race. Photo via AP Images