If 2020 had its own movie trailer, it would sound a little something like: "From the year that brought you raging brush fires, a deadly pandemic, murder hornets, and mass civil unrest over police brutality comes the bizarrely timed revelation of a Florida congressman's never-before-seen son."
When the House Judiciary Committee proposed changes to a federal police-reform bill on Wednesday, Florida Republican Rep. Matt 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, especially 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."
Richmond, who brought up his experiences with police brutality and his concerns for his black son, castigated Republican lawmakers for introducing amendments to the bill that he considered unnecessary and distracting from the issue of police violence.
Enter Gaetz, who became angry at the implication.
"I appreciate your passion," Gaetz said to Richmond. "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."
It didn't take long for Twitter to wonder why Gaetz — a single, 38-year-old man who, up until yesterday, most everyone thought was childless — was so insulted. Then the congressman tweeted that he has a 19-year-old son named Nestor Galban who came from Cuba "legally, of course" six years ago and lives with Gaetz.
For all those wondering, this is my son Nestor. We share no blood but he is my life. He came from Cuba (legally, of course) six years ago and lives with me in Florida.— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) June 18, 2020
I am so proud of him and raising him has been the best, most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life. pic.twitter.com/JB96wzOzYU
Gaetz's announcement raised questions about his relationship with Galban, whether the congressman formally adopted him, and why he hadn't publicly mentioned having a son.
Gaetz's press secretary did not respond to questions from New Times yesterday.
The congressman has also drawn ire online for the timing and context of his disclosure. Critics accused him of trotting out Galban to gain political points and to diminish Richmond's claims of implicit bias among Republicans, as if being a father figure to a Cuban takes away from Gaetz's ties to white nationalists, disregard toward immigrants, and his insinuation that two black lawmakers can't research or spell.
Everyone trying to figure out if Matt Gaetz has a son or adopted a son, and what color is the young man, are still missing the point: Having people of color in his life doesn't immunize him from being accused of racism or not doing right by black people.— Tia Mitchell (@TIAreports) June 18, 2020
Matt Gaetz has a PARAGRAPH on his Wiki bio about growing up in the house from The Truman Show, but ZERO about the 12 y/o boy he adopted in 2013. & Gaetz is only publicly acknowledging his son because he got punked by Rep. Richmond. This poses way more questions than it answers.???? pic.twitter.com/nnr7bXlvtp— W. Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) June 18, 2020
Yesterday, Gaetz told People magazine that Nestor Galban arrived in the U.S. from Cuba at age 12. Galban's mother died of breast cancer in Cuba, the magazine reported. Gaetz dated Galban's older sister for a time, and the teen "has basically lived with" the lawmaker for the past six years. Gaetz has not formally adopted Galban, according to People.
"He is a part of my family story," Gaetz told the magazine. "My work with Nestor, our family, no element of my public service could compare to the joy that our family has brought me."
Galban himself responded to some of the criticism Gaetz was receiving on Twitter. The teen responded to one commenter that he'd wanted things to be kept secret "because I wanted to have a normal life without any of y'all getting in it."
I wanted as a secret before because I wanted to have a normal life without any of y’all getting in it. But now I’m 19 and I old enough to handle it.— Nestor Galban (@galban_nestor) June 18, 2020
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While Galban says he's old enough to handle what's happening now, it's not clear whether he had a say in Gaetz's disclosure. The two appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight last night, and Galban said he slept through Gaetz's announcement and later woke up to texts, tweets, and calls about it.
Although Galban's existence is news to the general public, he was apparently known in political circles in Washington, D.C., and Florida. Former lawmakers and friends came to Gaetz's defense, including former Florida state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and former California congresswoman Katie Hill.
I am seeing so many hateful comments about Matt Gaetz & Nestor. When that kid lost his mom, Matt was dating his sister and he stepped up. Plain and simple. He has been an outstanding role model & mentor for Nestor and anyone that served with Matt knows this great kid ???????????????? pic.twitter.com/lD96jI54nQ— Jose Felix Diaz (@josefelixdiaz) June 18, 2020
Many of you know @mattgaetz & I have an unlikely friendship. I can’t stand a lot of his beliefs but he’s been there for me when others haven’t. He talks about Nestor more than anything, has done so much for his son & is truly a proud dad. This #freenestor thing is bullshit. Stop. https://t.co/qqOx9opXzH— Katie Hill (@KatieHill4CA) June 18, 2020