McCarthy made the remarks during a pre-rebuttal speech ahead of the president’s prime-time speech later that evening. The House GOP leader’s speech marks an effort to counter the president’s message — ahead of the 2022 midterms as Republicans fight to regain control of the House of Representatives.
“President Biden has chosen to divide, belittle and denigrate his fellow Americans – Why? simply because they disagree with his policy,” McCarthy said in his speech. “That’s not leadership.”
“When the president speaks tonight at Independence Hall, the first lines of his mouth should be to apologize for slandering tens of millions of Americans by calling them ‘fascists,'” McCarthy said.
Biden likened the philosophy behind Trump and those who supported him to “semi-facism” – comments Republicans have seized on to criticize the president.
“It’s not just Trump,” he continued, “it’s the whole philosophy behind the — I’ll say something: it’s like semi-fascism.”
McCarthy also used his remarks to broadly criticize Democratic control of Congress and the Biden White House, arguing that Americans are struggling and Democrats are not delivering.
The House Minority Leader said in his speech that he spoke to Americans who felt the policies of Biden and the Democrats were making their lives harder. He suggested that a Republican majority in Congress might be the solution.
“What’s clear to me and clear to you is that Washington and the White House aren’t listening. They just don’t get it,” he said. “Our best days are ahead of us, not behind us. Our nation can thrive again, and under a historic new Republican majority, it will. The past two years have been a trying time for Americans everywhere.”
He added: “Over the past two years, Joe Biden has launched an assault on the soul of America, on its people, on its laws, on its most sacred values. He has launched an assault on our democracy His policies have gravely wounded America’s soul, diminished America’s spirit and betrayed America’s trust.”
McCarthy spoke about Republican positions on immigration, drug addiction, Covid-19 mandates and education, among other issues.
At one point, McCarthy addressed democracy in the United States, an issue Democrats often raise against Republicans in connection with Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election results.
McCarthy also suggested that the FBI’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property was politically motivated, which the Justice Department has repeatedly denied.
“Joe Biden often says our democracy is under threat. He’s right, but not for the reason he thinks,” McCarthy said. “Joe Biden and a politicized DOJ raided the home of his main political rival, Donald Trump. It’s an attack on democracy.”
McCarthy concluded his speech by offering Republicans’ message ahead of the 2022 midterms.
“Republicans have a plan for a new leadership that will get our country back on track. Our plan is our commitment to America,” he said. “If Republicans are given the opportunity and the honor of having a majority in the House, we will work day and night, hour after hour for you, the people.”
Biden is expected to use his speech to bolster the offensive against extremism within the Republican Party that he has recently made central to his messaging as he seeks to tie GOP candidates to his predecessor in the White House, framing the mid-terms as a second round against Trump.
The key battleground state of Pennsylvania serves as the backdrop for both speeches. McCarthy’s speech took place in Biden’s hometown of Scranton, while Biden will speak from Philadelphia.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this story.