In a bizarre series of events, a Louisiana congressman announced the retirement of U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina on television Wednesday, only to apologize hours later and say he was wrong.
“I’ve apologized to Trey privately for having misspoken on his future plans but wanted to make this apology public,” U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said in a statement. “After speaking with him, I do believe that he will be running for re-election.”
Fleming made his surprise announcement on C-SPAN earlier in the day, saying, “Trey wants to go back to South Carolina and God bless him for that.”
Asked if the Spartanburg Republican had told him and others that he was leaving Washington, Fleming confirmed Gowdy had.
“At the end of his term, yes,” Fleming said. “He plans to go back home, and he wants to finish his work on the Benghazi special committee. But he loves South Carolina and he loves his family, and he wants to go back and spend the rest of his life there.”
U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, also of South Carolina, said he was sitting next to Gowdy as Fleming made his C-SPAN announcement. The Indian Land Republican said he turned to Gowdy and Gowdy told him it wasn’t true.
“Sometimes the rumor mill can really get out of hand. Trey Gowdy is NOT retiring from Congress. I have said before and I will say again: he would never leave in the middle of the Benghazi investigation,” Mulvaney subsequently posted on his Facebook page. “He is here, at the very least, until it is finished.”
Gowdy, for his part, won’t say if he is running for re-election or not in 2016. “Mr. Gowdy has not made any announcement on 2016,” said spokeswoman Amanda Duvall.
Fleming’s explanation for his announcement of Gowdy’s retirement is he had “misinterpreted a statement” by Gowdy.
The odd developments come as Gowdy has been in the spotlight this week following the news that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is stepping down. That will open up House GOP leadership positions and Gowdy, 48, has been pegged as a rising Republican star almost since the day he arrived in Congress in 2011.
Conservatives want Gowdy to run for the job of House majority leader. But Gowdy says he won’t and is focused on investigating the 2012 Benghazi attacks.
That investigation itself came under attack from Democrats Wednesday after U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican who is expected to be the next House speaker, told Fox News that the probe was aimed at Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
"Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” McCarthy said. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping."
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Claif., called Wednesday for Speaker Boehner to disband Gowdy’s Benghazi committee, calling it "a political smear campaign" and "an abuse of taxpayer funds."
McClatchy’s David Lightman and Bristow Marchant of The Herald of Rock Hill contributed.