As the Gaetz scandal unfurls, the congressman has kept himself squarely in the spotlight.
The congressman, who is reportedly being investigated for the possible sex trafficking of a minor, has happily given interviews and on-the-record quotes, penned op-eds and furiously retweeted supportive articles and takes from rightwing outlets.
On Tuesday, he took that baffling PR strategy a step further as he sent out a fundraising blast to his supporters bemoaning the “smear campaign.”
“The far-left New York Times has been publishing salacious allegations against me in an attempt to end my career fighting for the forgotten men and women of this country,” the email read. “It is a shame that the Left tries to drag my dating life into their political attacks, but it’s no surprise – when your ideas suck, you have to stoop this low.”
A big red button invites you to “CLICK HERE TO FIGHT BACK AGAINST THE FAKE NEWS,” which redirects to a donation page on Gaetz’s campaign website.
Gaetz has denied that he ever paid for sex or “slept with” a 17-year-old girl as an adult, the age of the minor involved in the investigation, according to the Times. Doing so is a crime by itself in many states. Traveling between states to have sexual intercourse invokes the federal age of consent, which is 18.
The investigation into Gaetz is reportedly an offshoot of a probe in Joel Greenberg, the former Seminole County tax collector who has been indicted for alleged sex trafficking. Gaetz and Greenberg are good friends, and their relationship spans the time during which Greenberg allegedly trafficked a child.
Gaetz has called the allegations baseless, claiming that they are part of a $25 million extortion plot carried out by a former federal prosecutor. The lawyer in question, David McGee, told the Daily Beast that Gaetz’s allegations are “completely, totally false.” Gaetz didn’t mention the supposed extortion plot in the fundraising email.
On Monday, a former Gaetz employee was dispatched to give a press briefing about his recent encounter with members of the FBI. Gaetz’s office advertised the event on official letterhead, despite the fact that retired Air Force Capt. Nathan Nelson no longer worked for his office.
Nelson testified that FBI officials told him they’d been approached by members of the media who said that he, Nelson, had knowledge of Gaetz’s “illegal activities” and had left Gaetz’s office as a result. Nelson declared such assertions false, adding that the experience led him to believe that the allegations against Gaetz are false as well. Beyond that, Nelson declined to offer evidence to prove Gaetz’s innocence.
Gaetz wrote an op-ed in the Washington Examiner Monday, whatabouting his situation by waving toward former President Bill Clinton and the current accusations against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).
“My lifestyle of yesteryear may be different from how I live now, but it was not and is not illegal,” he wrote. “I defended Rep. Katie Hill’s ‘throuple’ when her own Democratic colleagues wouldn’t. I just didn’t think it was anyone’s business.”
Hill, who was forced out of Congress amid a scandal involving a relationship with a subordinate and personal pictures disseminated without her consent, weighed in to the Gaetz situation this week too. The two previously had a friendship, she said, with Gaetz being one of the very few to defend her at the time.
“Let me state it as clearly as possible: If, despite his denials, Matt Gaetz did have sex with a minor, if he did provide girls and young women with drugs and money and gifts in exchange for sex, if he did ask these girls and young women to recruit other women for the same purpose, and if he did show his colleagues images of nude women without their consent, he needs to be held responsible,” she wrote, adding: “If there is even a fraction of truth to these reports, he should resign immediately.”