The Greek storyteller Aesop was a little too on the nose when he wrote in his collection of morality tales, "Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true." Exhibit A: On March 25, Florida congressman Matt Gaetz tweeted that if he were ever to suffer a public scandal, he would want the controversy to be called "Gaetzgate."
Five days later, the New York Times reported that Gaetz is a subject of a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation for an alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl two years ago in which he may have paid for her to travel with him — a potential violation of federal sex trafficking laws. The investigation is part of a larger probe into Joel Greenberg, a Gaetz ally and former Seminole County tax collector who was indicted last summer on federal charges of stalking, identity fraud, and sex trafficking of a minor.
Gaetz has denied the allegations against him in a series of bizarre claims. He says he and his father have been cooperating in an FBI investigation against a former DOJ official who purportedly has been extorting Gaetz for $25 million in exchange for making the sexual misconduct investigation go away. (The former official denies the claim.)
Whatever's actually going on here, this isn't the first time Gaetz has courted scandal and given his office a bad name. He's become a cartoonish right-wing demagogue, and until now he always seemed to bask in the attention. Here, New Times looks back on some of the congressman's prior scandals, all worthy of the Gaetzgate tag.
Gaetz perpetuated the election-fraud lie. Gaetz has long been one of former president Donald Trump's most enthusiastic supporters. He repeatedly parroted Trump's claims of voter fraud and falsely said there was proof of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
In January, Gaetz became one of 122 House Republicans who voted to decertify the Electoral College votes in Arizona, a state Joe Biden won by about 10,500 votes. In a speech on the House floor, Gaetz lied in alleging that Democrats had laundered ballots and voter-registration forms. He also used his platform to spread another lie — that the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6 wasn't made up of Trump supporters, but of antifa activists masquerading as Trump supporters.
Following a debate about racism and police reform, Gaetz announced he has a Cuban son named Nestor. Gaetz is no stranger to pulling political stunts. So when he announced last year that he has an immigrant son, some people felt Gaetz was using the teenager as a political prop.
When the House Judiciary Committee proposed changes to a federal police-reform bill last summer, Gaetz lashed out at Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana during a heated discussion about race and whether white Republicans could understand the experience of Black Americans and, in particular, Black men.
"You all are white males," Richmond told lawmakers. "You've never lived in my shoes, and you do not know what it's like to be an African-American male."
To that, Gaetz responded, "Are you suggesting that you're certain that none of us have nonwhite children? Because you reflect on your Black son, and you said none of us could understand."
Later that day, the congressman tweeted that he has a son named Nestor who came from Cuba ("legally, of course") and had been living with Gaetz in Florida. Gaetz clarified that he and Nestor aren't biological relatives and he has not adopted the teen. Nestor reportedly came into Gaetz's care while the congressman was dating the teen's older sister.
Somehow, Gaetz thought that unveiling an immigrant son would give him more credibility in the argument. But, to Richmond's point, Gaetz still doesn't know what it's like to be a Black man in America.
“I hate when people trivialize serious subjects.” - man who wore gas mask in Congress pic.twitter.com/Rfcthd8flB— The Hoarse Whisperer (@TheRealHoarse) June 15, 2020
Gaetz repeatedly downplayed the risks of COVID-19. The congressman showed his ass in March when he wore a gas mask on the House floor during a vote on a coronavirus aid package. After one of his constituents died of the virus, the congressman defended his use of the mask and said he was actually serious about protecting himself and others.
That assertion doesn't exactly hold up when you look back at photos of Gaetz at maskless superspreader events and remember that he once propagated a conspiracy theory on national television that killed a research organization's grant to develop a cure for the coronavirus.
And you created a game where members of the FL House got "points" for sleeping with aides, interns, lobbyists, and married legislators. Hope DC is treating you well, Comgressman. https://t.co/PGFuQHJbEJ— Chris Latvala (@ChrisLatvala) January 14, 2020
Florida state Rep. Chris Latvala accused the congressman of inventing a sex game while he served in the Florida Legislature. In 2013, Politico reporter Marc Caputo tweeted that a source had told him that "young male FL Reps" had a sex contest that involved a point system. They assigned one point for getting laid by a lobbyist, two for sleeping with a staff member, three for getting jiggy with a fellow legislator, and six for rolling in the hay with a married legislator.
According to a Sun-Sentinel article from last year, the sex game was still being played during the 2014 and 2015 legislative sessions, when Gaetz was a state representative. Current Florida Rep. Chris Latvala tweeted on January 13, 2020, that Gaetz was the game's creator.
Gaetz got a little thirsty for AOC. What does a man do when he disagrees with your politics and nearly everything you stand for but still thinks you're hot? He focuses on your looks while crapping on your beliefs.
In early 2019, Gaetz said in multiple media interviews that U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is "attractive" and that her ideas are dumb and dangerous for the country. He also called a video of her dancing "adorable" and told TMZ that he would "swipe right" on working with her, a reference to the dating app Tinder.
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