House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy called on Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., to apologize to White House chief of staff John Kelly and his family for calling the retired Marine Corps general a "disgrace to the uniform."
"What is disgraceful is to attack the character of such an honorable man who has dedicated his life to serving this country, and whose family gave the ultimate sacrifice," McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters during a news conference Wednesday. "I believe Rep. Gutierrez owes Gen. Kelly and his family an apology."
Gutierrez slammed Kelly last week after the Trump administration announced it is rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The administration gave Congress until March 5, 2018, to come up with a permanent solution for dealing with Dreamers, the name given to those brought to the U.S. illegally as children and who are protected from deportation under DACA.
"General Kelly is a hypocrite who is a disgrace to the uniform he used to wear," Gutierrez said. "He has no honor and should be drummed out of the White House along with the white supremacists and those enabling the president's actions by ‘just following orders.'"
Kelly, who served as secretary of Homeland Security before moving over the White House, responded to Gutierrez's comments in an email to Fox News on Sunday and said the Illinois Democrats has a "right to his own opinion."
"As far as the congressman and other irresponsible members of Congress are concerned, they have the luxury of saying what they want as they do nothing and have almost no responsibility," Kelly said. "They can call people liars but it would be inappropriate for me to say the same thing back at them. As my blessed mother used to say, ‘empty barrels make the most noise.'"
Kelly also defended the Trump administration's move to end DACA, the constitutionality of which has been challenged, and said he urged both Republicans and Democrats to take action to protect Dreamers for months.
"During my time at DHS — from 20 Jan until this moment — I have met with hundreds of members on both sides of the Hill," he said.
"My [message] always was ‘I have bought you time to do something on DACA.' I begged and pleaded with them. They did exactly nothing."
McCarthy went on to praise Kelly, a Gold Star father, for his service both in the Marines and now with the Trump administration.
"We all know Gen. Kelly is a retired general, the highest-ranking service member to have ever lost a child in battle," he said. "Gen. Kelly has served his country in the Marines. He's serving his country again in this administration. He is truly an American patriot."