- Associated Press - Friday, October 9, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) - A North Carolina congresswoman thanked fellow Republicans for their support Friday after many received incendiary emails alleging an affair between her and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, according to two Republicans in the closed-door meeting.

The emails arrived at a time of bitter division within the House GOP and the Republican Party nationally, with hardline conservatives increasingly at odds with more establishment-aligned figures, including McCarthy.

Rep. Renee Ellmers stood up to speak in an open-microphone portion of the meeting being held the morning after McCarthy shocked the House by taking his name out of contention to become the next speaker.

She thanked fellow lawmakers for their support and prayers and said she was sorry they had received the emails. She described the messages as “batshit crazy.” She said it was daunting to be a woman in Washington but that she was a “tough cookie” and could handle it.

McCarthy was not in the room at the time.

The two Republicans who described Ellmers’ comments spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose the private discussion.

In a statement later, Ellmers said: “As someone who has been targeted by completely false accusations and innuendo, I have been moved by the outpouring of support and prayers from my colleagues, constituents and friends. Now I will be praying for those who find it acceptable to bear false witness.”

McCarthy denied earlier this week that his decision to withdraw from the speaker’s race was related to a letter from one backbench lawmaker demanding that any candidate with embarrassing misdeeds in his past should withdraw.

In recent days, several lawmakers have reported receiving emails about the allegations, apparently from a right-wing activist known for spamming Republicans.

McCarthy’s spokesman declined comment.

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