From the moment Matt Gaetz blitzed into Washington in 2016 as a 34-year-old Trump ally, it was clear that the representative from Florida liked to live dangerously. He invited Holocaust doubter and general crazy person Charles Johnson to the State of the Union. He hired canceled Trump speechwriter Darren Beattie, then, because that wasn’t risky enough, he potentially fudged House ethics rules to pay him.
As a Florida state representative, Gaetz allegedly concocted a scoring system for sexual conquests in Tallahassee: lobbyists were one point, aides two, legislators three, married legislators six. (Gaetz denies any knowledge of the game.)
In fall 2019, Gaetz white-knighted for Democrat Katie Hill after her bisexual menage à trois forced her out of Congress. If Gaetz himself didn’t ooze sex, then he certainly oozed the sense he was a man who liked to have it. A lot. He also bragged that he was trying to seduce Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, though as far as Cockburn has been able to deduce, his efforts went unrewarded. Perhaps AOC didn’t dig the quiff.
But Gaetz surpassed himself yesterday. Mere hours after Axios published rumors that Gaetz wanted to leave Congress for a Newsmax job, the New York Times one-upped them with a much wilder rumor that Gaetz was under investigation by the Justice Department for possible sex trafficking over a relationship with a 17-year-old girl. The paper reports that no charges have been brought against Gaetz and the extent of his criminal exposure is unclear.
But Gaetz is not one to let a claim against him go by without detonating a bomb under it. More than any other Trump ally in Congress, Gaetz has actually learned from the political tactics of the 45th president. All of the Donald’s lessons were on display from him: admit no wrongdoing! Counter with even bigger claims! Above all, make sure you’re the one people are hearing on the television! And so, with scandal engulfing his career, Gaetz immediately booked a slot on Tucker Carlson Tonight. The results were, er, unusual:
WATCH: Rep. Matt Gaetz responds on Tucker Carlson Tonight to allegations of sexual misconduct:
He says a former DOJ official named David McGee is trying to extort is family for money
He says that the FBI and DOJ have audio recordings that will prove his innocence. pic.twitter.com/J95AEFtxsr
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) March 31, 2021
Afterwards, Carlson summed up the thoughts of his 3.5 million viewers: what in the world was that?
The most telling thing about the #Tucker-Matt Gaetz interview was #Tucker's reaction afterward when he admitted it "was one of the weirdest interviews I have ever conducted" and "I don't think that clarified much."
I tweeted the segment, but my opinion is Gaetz is in big trouble pic.twitter.com/56We2dIgKg
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) March 31, 2021
Forget merely denying the allegations. That’s for cucks. Extortion! FBI wires! Former DOJ official demanding $25 million! According to Gaetz, the allegations laundered in the Times were an effort to derail a separate FBI investigation meant to protect Gaetz, or something. Viewers were left with a lot of questions. How would leaking lies to a newspaper thwart a genuine investigation? Is the FBI even allowed to ‘release the tapes’ like that, if they exist? The answer is ‘don’t think too hard about it’; it’s like a plot point stolen from House of Cards’s extremely bad later seasons.
Besides one-upping a wild claim with an even wilder one, Gaetz also made not one but two efforts to rope Carlson into his troubles, by suggesting that Carlson had similarly been falsely accused, and then suggested Carlson had met a woman with him, over dinner, who was threatened by the FBI. Gaetz’s double-flail reeked of deep desperation (or possibly a personality disorder). Carlson’s baffled-but-icy response both times made it clear that Gaetz was alienating an ally.
Incredibly, that wasn’t the first time Gaetz used Carlson to deliver one of the most awkward interviews in Fox history. In 2020, Gaetz went on Carlson’s show to introduce the world to Nestor, a roommate he described as his ‘son’ despite the boy’s actual father being extremely alive. The ongoing nature of Nestor’s relationship with his ‘daddy’ remains unclear.
So, is Gaetz guilty of anything? One obvious answer is: who the hell knows? Another answer is: it might not matter. This week’s bombshells may mark the final test of whether Gaetz is fully worthy to follow in Trump’s footsteps. A normal politician being investigated for his dealings with a teenage girl would be doomed, even if the FBI never filed a single charge. Trump, on the other hand, has survived countless sexual misconduct allegations, no worse for wear. Can Gaetz do the same? We’re about to find out.