CNN host Jake Tapper defended the “20 rebels” from Kevin McCarthy’s own party who refuse to vote for the California Republican as Speaker of the House.

“Let me just turn and just say I know to the viewers out there, this probably seems chaotic and insane, but, A: this is democracy,” the anchor said Wednesday on his show, “The Lead with Jake Tapper.”

McCarthy has been denied the required 218 votes needed to assume the gavel in six separate attempts — despite Republicans winning slim control of the lower chamber in the midterms.

Tapper, who has often been criticized for taking a left-leaning stance, spoke up for the cadre of fringe Republicans holding up McCarthy’s ascension during a panel discussion between the fifth and sixth votes.

The “20 rebels are voting the way they’re voting because they actually want substantive changes to the rules,” Tapper said.

The roll is called at the US House of Representatives as lawmakers continues voting for new speaker at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 4, 2023. - US Republicans will attempt on Wednesday to break a deadlock with far-right members of their own party over the election of a new leader of the House of Representatives, a day after the chamber was thrown into disarray by their blocking of favorite Kevin McCarthy's bid for the position. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
Members of the House of Representatives are deadlocked on the vote to elect Kevin McCarthy as Speaker.
AFP via Getty Images

He then echoed the words of Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), who had nominated McCarthy for one of the rounds of voting, saying the chaos is a “feature” of a healthy democracy.

“I think Congressman Gallagher was right earlier today. He said this is messy, and democracy is messy. It’s a feature, not a bug. That’s true,” Tapper said.

Tapper’s comments came as the embattled network seeks to strike a more non-partisan chord with viewers under new boss Chris Licht. Licht, who recently led a hefty round of layoffs at the third-place cable news network, has said his mandate is to tamp down on anti-Trump, left-leaning punditry, among other things.

Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) enters the Capitol on January 5, 2023 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives will continue to try and elect the next Speaker after McCarthy failed to earn more than 218 votes on six ballots over two days, the first time in 100 years that the Speaker was not elected on the first ballot. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy will continue to try and elect the next Speaker after he failed to earn more than 218 votes on six ballots over two days.
Getty Images
Jake tapper on cnn during the vote for speaker
Jake Tapper agreed with Rep. Gallagher that democracy is a messy process as the House scrambles to elect its Speaker.

Prior to Tapper’s remarks, Gallagher defended the process playing out on the House floor. He said even though people are “getting frustrated” with the deadlocked vote, Americans are “lucky” to be “citizens of the greatest country in the world.”

The drama over electing a Speaker recommences at noon on Thursday when the House reconvenes.


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Tyler Cowan