- House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy admitted that he rented a room for several months from pollster and corporate advisor Frank Luntz.
- But McCarthy, during an appearance on Fox News, denied there was any conflict of interest in sharing a home with his longtime pal Luntz, a consultant for Republican causes.
- McCarthy's admission came a day after outraged Fox News host Tucker Carlson first reported the California Republican's living arrangement with Luntz in downtown Washington.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House, admitted Tuesday that he rented a room for "a couple of months" from GOP pollster and corporate advisor Frank Luntz.
But McCarthy, during an appearance on Fox News, denied there was any conflict of interest in sharing a home with his longtime pal Luntz, a commucations consultant for Republican causes and corporations.
McCarthy's chuckling confirmation came a day after outraged Fox News host Tucker Carlson first reported the California Republican's curious living arrangement with Luntz in downtown Washington. McCarthy told Fox News he paid "fair market rate" for the room to Luntz.
Records reviewed by CNBC indicate that Luntz bought that three-bedroom, 3½-bath, 1,740 square-foot penthouse apartment in 2018 for more than $1 million.
The pad boasts "Italian appliances" and a "rooftop patio," according a real estate site.
Carlson had expressed wide-eyed astonishment Monday night that Luntz — who has been a verbal target of his recently — was acting as McCarthy's landlord.
Carlson's ire stems from his belief that Luntz is "effectively a Democrat" — whom Carlson says also effectively "lobbies on behalf of some of the world's most left-wing corporations" — while having the ear of "the leadership of the Republican Party."
"His views, make no mistake, bear no resemblance whatsoever to the views of actual Republican voters," Carlson fumed on his show.
Carlson began teeing off on Luntz last week after the pollster was quoted by Axios as saying "Republicans are more pro-immigrant than elites realize."
Carlson said on his show he was tipped off to McCarthy staying with Luntz, but that McCarthy's spokeswoman all but chuckled in first denying the tip Monday morning.
She said McCarthy either slept on his office couch or rented hotel rooms when in Washington, according to Carlson.
But that spokeswoman two hours later confirmed the tip in a text to Carlson's show, saying, "Because of the [coronavirus] pandemic, McCarthy has rented a room in Washington at a fair market price from Frank."
Carlson showed the message on his show and then said, "Now you know why they listen to Frank Luntz and not you."
When Fox and Friends host Steve Doocy asked McCarthy on Tuesday morning about staying with Luntz — "What's up with that?" — the lawmaker smiled.
"I didn't know how this was controversial," McCarthy said.
"Frank has been a friend of mine for more than 30 years."
McCarthy then chalked up his use of Luntz's residence to Democrats changing around offices in the House of Representatives — not to the Covid-19 pandemic, as his spokeswoman told Carlson.
"As Democrats took over they started changing the House around," McCarthy told Doocy.
Democrats won majority control in the House two years ago. So it is not clear how a reconfiguration of offices then led to McCarthy stay with Luntz more recently.
"Yeah, I rented a room from Frank for a couple of months, but don't worry, I'm going back to where I am normally ... back to the couch in my office," McCarthy told Doocy.
"We paid far-market rent," McCarthy said.
CNBC has reached out to McCarthy's office to ask how long exactly he stayed with Luntz, and what rate he paid the pollster.
"Frank's not a lobbyist, Frank's a friend," McCarthy told Doocy when the Fox News host pointed out Carlson's criticisms. "I don't see that there's any problem there along that line."
Luntz, a frequent guest on CNBC, did not immediately return a request for comment.
— Additional reporting by CNBC's Brian Schwartz and Christina Wilkie