House Speaker Kevin McCarthy admitted Wednesday that Republicans "took the bait" by allowing President Biden to turn GOP heckling at his State of the Union address into political gold.
The powerful Republican said Biden effectively used the outbursts by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and other far-right wingers to win over Americans watching at home.
"The one thing we need to be is, we need to be smart," McCarthy told Fox News the morning after the widely praised performance by Biden. "Don't take the bait, stay with the American public about what we want to do."
Greene, a firebrand conservative, stood to interrupt Biden's speech and shouted that he was lying when he accused some Republicans of planning to gut Social Security and Medicare.
Other MAGA hardliners joined in the heckling, prompting McCarthy to shake his head as he sat behind Biden and appeared to shush his fellow GOP lawmakers.
Biden deftly turned aside the nasty outburst by urging Republicans to openly show Americans that they agree that those programs should not be cut.
The result was a bipartisan standing ovation - and a political victory for Biden.
On the morning after her embarrassing performance, Greene insisted she "didn't take any bait" after all, effectively pushing back on McCarthy's assessment.
She cited messages of support from hardcore Biden-haters in her ruby red rural Georgia district.
"It was like I won my election again," she told CNN Wednesday. "You know what? People are pissed off."
The disagreements within the GOP illustrate the difficult job McCarthy has in managing his fractious caucus, which holds a slim 10-vote majority.
While McCarthy may hope to win over moderate and independent voters, extremists like Greene answer to the angry MAGA base that relishes confrontation with Biden and his Democratic allies.