House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., suggested to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., last summer that Russian President Vladimir Putin was paying Donald Trump, a remark spokesmen for both lawmakers dismissed as a bad joke Wednesday.
The remark, made just over a month before Trump received the Republican nomination for president, was dismissed as "a failed attempt at humor"by McCarthy's spokesman.
"The idea McCarthy would assert this is absurd and false," Matt Sparks told Fox News.
The June 15 conversation was first reported by The Washington Post, which claimed it that it heard a recording of the conversation.
"There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump," said McCarthy. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., has said policymakers in Washington have been too harsh on Russia and should work more closely with Moscow to fight extremist groups.
According to a transcript from the Post, McCarthy's comment prompted laughter from some Republicans in the room, at which point Ryan jumped in.
"No leaks, all right?" the Speaker said, as the laughter continued. "This is how we know we're a real family here."
Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck also described the exchange as "an attempt at humor," at one point taking to social media to counter the report.
"No one believed the majority leader was seriously asserting that Donald Trump or any of our members were being paid by the Russians," Buck said in a statement. "What’s more, the speaker and leadership team have repeatedly spoken out against Russia’s interference in our election, and the House continues to investigate that activity."
Rohrabacher spokesman Ken Grubbs told the Post that the lawmaker was an advocate of "working closer with the Russians to combat radical Islamism. The congressman doesn't need to be paid to come to such a necessary conclusion."
Fox News' Mike Emanuel and the Associated Press contributed to this report.