Politics

InfoWars-Appearing Nutball Matt Gaetz Is on the DeSantis "Transition Team"

InfoWars-Appearing Nutball Matt Gaetz Is on the DeSantis "Transition Team"
Florida House of Representatives
Just last month, North Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz was under fire for promoting insane, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories linking George Soros to the asylum-seeking migrant caravan traveling from Guatemala to the U.S. border. Gaetz's ideas were pretty dang similar to those shared online by the neo-Nazi who shot 11 Jewish worshippers last month at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

But, rather than being drummed out of public life or forced to resign, Gaetz is instead assisting Gov.-Elect Ron DeSantis' transition team. Politico Florida's Matt Dixon yesterday tweeted out a list of DeSantis' transition advisers, which includes right-wing State Rep. Richard Corcoran, former Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings, former Charlie Crist chief of staff George LeMieux, and Gaetz, an awful man with a head shaped like a mayonnaise jar:
Frankly, given how wacko and steeped in Breitbart psychosis DeSantis' campaign was, it's shocking that his transition team isn't staffed by crazier people — Jennings and LeMieux worked for some comparatively center-right, decidedly non-Trumpy administrations. Corcoran, meanwhile, is a pro-Trump dude and Christian nut job (who, incidentally, repeatedly insulted DeSantis during the primary) but he's not an outright conspiracy-mongering, semi-alt-right guy like Gaetz.

Gaetz, the son of longtime Florida State Sen. Don Gaetz, is in a league of his own in both Florida and the U.S. Congress — if Iowa Rep. Steve King is the congressional David Duke, representing a more old-school version of outright white nationalism, Gaetz is the congressional Pepe the Frog. One of Gaetz's staffers got caught sourcing information for an anti-Hillary-Clinton bill on r/The_Donald, a Reddit page popular with Pepe-posting psychos. Gaetz has also appeared on InfoWars with Alex Jones. He claims he's since come to regret that move. But he doesn't deserve anyone's sympathy.

There's a small subset of Florida reporters who treat Gaetz like a normal person and give him space to pontificate in the press. Some reporters joke behind the scenes that Gaetz likely doesn't believe half or all of the insane things he spews online, and that he is, instead, just play-acting to fire up his base. Whether or not this is true, he's one of the people centrally responsible for the fact that politicians can basically say whatever racist nonsense comes to mind without facing consequences.


For example, rather than criticize Donald Trump for calling Haiti and other majority-black countries "shitholes" this year, Gaetz instead went on MSNBC, took a huge huff of "Empire by Trump" cologne, and said Haiti was full of "sheet metal and garbage." It doesn't matter whether Gaetz believes the things he's saying — his words give cover for real people to act out their racist fantasies in public.

As the Orlando Weekly succinctly and rightly stated last month, Gaetz "is a terrible person." He has, most infamously, appeared repeatedly alongside a known Holocaust denier and suspected white supremacist, Chuck Johnson — he even invited Johnson to the 2017 State of the Union address and appeared with Johnson again in 2018 at a fundraiser on a yacht. After Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered with a bone saw by Saudi agents — reportedly while still alive —  earlier this year, Gaetz tweeted out some insults at Khashoggi.

And, mere weeks ago, he tried to tie Jewish boogeyman George Soros to a caravan of Guatemalan migrants. He later apologized — not for his anti-Semitic smear, but instead for incorrectly saying that the migrants were from Honduras. Even Fox News banned a different guest for spreading that exact same conspiracy theory on TV.

Last month, Gaetz also tweeted out that America's current immigration system is "social engineering" — a phrase often used by white nationalists, including former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. When this reporter raised that point on Twitter, Gaetz claimed I was making the whole thing up:
DeSantis suffers from the same sort of rhetorical disease, which is perhaps why Gaetz wound up working on his gubernatorial squad. It's fine to call these two men bad people, not because of their policies (also bad, in our opinion) but because of their absolute willingness to lie to the public and pump racial hatred into the national ecosystem. It's already going to be a long four years with DeSantis in charge — do your part and treat these whiny, racist men with the scorn they deserve.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.