The first mention of the newest Matt Gaetz scandal that I saw yesterday was that he was thinking of resigning from Congress to go work for a far right media platform. That seemed like a weird rumor to push out to the media. After all, he's from a very rich family and doesn't need the money and his self-identity and entire life has been defined by politics. Then the news of his under-aged scandal started seeping out and his immediate comments always emphasized that the victim was a female. That might have seemed odd-- at least to anyone who was unaware of another Matt Gaetz scandal, one that never went anywhere because... well, Florida. And that was a gay scandal, when Gaetz was accused of murdering his college roommate and, along with his politically powerful papa, disposing of the body. There's a lot to unpack here; let's get going.
You might want to start with a controversial piece by investigator journalist Wayne Madsen, although you need to be aware that he has been accused of being a purveyor conspiracy theories. Just before the very, very far right state Rep. Matt Gaetz was elected to Congress in 2016, Madsen wrote that he "portrays himself to the Bible-thumping voters of the Panhandle as a God-fearing conservative. However, even a partial glance at Gaetz’s record reveals at least seven arrests for drunk driving and a reputed alternate gay life style. Gaetz’s politically powerful father Don ensured that none of the arrests led to prosecutions. The current U.S. House hopeful Matt Gaetz saw his political career launched when he became a legislative aide to Florida’s Republican House Speaker Ray Sansom. Sansom, who succeeded Marco Rubio as Speaker, was pressured to hire Matt by the elder Gaetz. Sansom fired Gaetz twice due to his aide’s DWI arrests and Gaetz’s habit of speaking on behalf of the Speaker without clearing statements first with his boss. Sansom represented Florida’s 4th House district. In 2010, Sansom resigned after he was indicted on fraud and conspiracy charges by Leon County state prosecutor Willie Meggs. The Florida House’s campaign to have Sansom resign over his alleged ethical violations was led by Don Gaetz, who then arranged to run his son Matt to fill the vacant 4th district seat in a special election. Matt Gaetz won and was easily re-elected in 2014 with no Democratic opponent. After Meggs was indicted, Florida prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against Sansom. However, the political damage to the former Florida House Speaker was done. Matt Gaetz and his father used the corrupt prosecutor-manufactured political grave of Sansom to launch Gaetz’s current campaign for the U.S. House." That was the intro. Here's the meat:
And what would be Panhandle politics without a dead body? Gaetz’s roommate at Florida State University was reportedly found dead under suspicious circumstances while they were undergraduate students. The same political machine that drove Sansom from office was used to cover up the circumstances of the roommate’s death. Sources close to the investigation of the death, however, told WMR that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated the death as a possible homicide but the agency was later politically-pressured to rule it a suicide. As with Gaetz’s multiple DWIs, the suspicious death of his college roommate was buried by Florida authorities and the university.
Matt Gaetz later, according to WMR’s sources in the 1st Congressional District, became involved in a gay relationship with a well-known pastor of an evangelical mega-church in Fort Walton Beach. Matt Gaetz is running for the U.S. Congress as a traditional “family values” and anti-gay rights conservative. Gaetz has also endorsed GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Three years later Mother Jones dubbed Gaetz Trump's favorite congressman and his most sycophantic fanboy. Stephanie Mencimer reported that Trump has lavished praise on Gaetz:
• "President Trump says Rep. Gaetz is 'handsome, going places... fantastic' in Fort Meyers, Florida rally."
• "President Trump holds rally in Pensacola, FL with Matt Gaetz."
• President Trump calls Rep. Gaetz "an absolute warrior" in live Fox News interview.
• President Trump endorses Gaetz in the Republican primary, calling him "one of the finest and most talented people in Congress."
Mencimer wrote that the 37 year old Gaetz "has earned a reputation for becoming one of the party’s highest-profile members by cheerleading for the president and emulating his public bullying and trolling. Gaetz seems to spend more time on Fox News than in congressional committee rooms, and when he does legislate, it’s sometimes for show. After Trump mocked the House Intelligence Committee chair, one of his chief antagonists, as “little pencil-neck Adam Schiff,” Gaetz went on Tucker Carlson’s show to announce a resolution to boot the California Democrat off the committee. Gaetz called it the Preventing Extreme Negligence with Classified Information Licenses Act, or PENCIL Act."
Gaetz is often described as Trump's protégé, someone who’s become a Fox News staple not just by sucking up to the president but by trying to out-Trump Trump with insults hurled at Democrats and anyone else with the temerity to challenge Señor Trumpanzee. But Gaetz hasn't simply been copying the president; he was cultivating a Trumplike persona even before anyone seriously considered the possibility of a President Trump. And the two men share more than just a love of playground taunts. Gaetz's political ascent was also fueled by a rich father who paved his way, and a series uf unorthodox financial maneuvers.
The meanest member of Congress hails from a town called Niceville, a sleepy enclave of about 15,000 nestled on Choctawhatchee Bay, just off the Gulf of Mexico. When Gaetz was growing up, it was 90 percent white, solidly middle class and best known for hosting the Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival-- in honor of the plentiful local fish, not the hairdo. The Gaetzes owned a second home in the nearby town of Seaside, where The Truman Show was filmed. Gaetz, who devoted his career to getting on television, spent much of his childhood in a house made famous by a character trying to get off TV.
The Gaetzes were conservative and religious, as was the surrounding community. (Two abortion doctors were murdered in the area during Gaetz's childhood.) Matt's mom suffered life-threatening complications while pregnant with his younger sister but opted not to have an abortion and was partially paralyzed as a result. Matt Gaetz has said her decision influenced his anti-abortion positions.
But if anyone is responsible for Gaetz's rise to political fame, it's his dad, whose deep pockets and even deeper connections in Florida politics are one reason Matt is known in his district as Baby Gaetz. "Matt would be an assistant manager at Walmart if it weren't for his father," says Steven Specht, a Democrat who ran against Gaetz for Congress in 2016.
Matt graduated from William and Mary Law School in 2007 and embarked on a small-town law career and in a race to collect drunk driving citations, during which time he earned a reputation as an entitled ne'er-do-well. Republicans are attracted to that kind of entitlement and when state House Speaker Ray Sansom was forced out of office for corruption, Matt was elected to his seat. All his dad's political cronies and donors contributed to Matt's campaign and he raised $480,000, five times more than any of his rivals. Although he only made $29,000 in 2010 as a lawyer, he managed to self-fund $100,000 in last minute (2 weeks) campaign expenses, more than any of his rivals spent in total.
He was an aggressive far right extremist in the legislature-- and made a name for himself as a nasty troll. Although the national mainstream media was still unaware of Gaetz, he was already starting to earn a national reputation by 2017: "After college, Gaetz went to work at as an attorney for Keefe, Anchors, and Gordon. He spent most of this time driving badly. At the age of 32, Matt had 16 traffic tickets, including driving 60 mph in a 35 mph zone on Christmas Day. In 2008, Gaetz was arrested for driving his dad’s BMW while intoxicated and refusing a breathalyzer test. He was arrested, his licensed was revoked, and he served a three month jail sentence. Just kidding! His arresting officer was forced to resign, video tape of his arrest and detainment were destroyed, and the case was dropped... In 2010, he started a long battle to remove ethanol mandates on gasoline. He did not cite gasoline costs; he just seemed to think the regulation was unnecessary. In 2013, he sponsored a bill to speed up executions of inmates on death row. When faced with opposition from Democrats, Gaetz fired back saying, 'Only God can judge-- but we can sure set up the meeting.' Stone cold! He would later co-sponsor classic Republican-themed legislation like restricting abortion access, outlawing abortion unless continuing the pregnancy would kill the mother, and allowing guns on college campuses. In 2014, he cited his previous DUI arrest for supporting a bill that would prohibit mugshots from being published online. In 2016, he sponsored a tax provision which conveniently helped a super PAC donor (donation: $25,000) with a multi-million dollar housing project. He pushed for less regulations on online fantasy sports-related gambling in Florida that had nothing to do with $10,000 in donations from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association... Former NRA president and current NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer called Gaetz 'one of the most pro-gun members to have ever served in the Florida Legislature.' Gaetz believes the right to openly carry a gun is 'granted not by government but by God.'"
Once elected to Congress, Gaetz immediately set to work crafting his legislative magnum opus. He worked tirelessly for days to craft a bill that reads 'The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018." That is all of it-- the full bill. No doubt it has absolutely nothing to do with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from oil and gas companies..
Since then, Gaetz has co-sponsored bills to abolish the Department of Education, pull America out of the United Nations, repeal the estate tax (which effects about 0.2% of the richest Americans), terminate the current tax code and replace it with a so-called 'Fair Tax" system, punish any country that does not take back immigrants deported from our country, and a bunch of other amazing ideas.
Needless to say, even if most congressional Republicans are quietly happy to see Gaetz go, this morning QAnon has been trying to rescue him... from their own manufactured worldview. "For more than three years, QAnon followers have been waiting for the Storm, the moment when high-profile lawmakers and other elites would be made to answer for their crimes of child sex trafficking. On Tuesday it sure seemed like the Storm had arrived, when the New York Times broke a bombshell story that Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, 38, was being investigated by the Department of Justice for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him. But in the hours after the news broke, QAnon followers didn’t celebrate. Instead, they frantically scrambled to explain why he couldn’t possibly have done what he’s accused of doing."
“Gaetz is working WITH FBI to catch an extortion racket,” a member of one prominent QAnon Telegram channel wrote. “The deep state media is using Matt Gaetz to distract us from the recent Ghislaine Maxwell drops and information,” a member of a different Telegram QAnon channel wrote.
Another user said the story was a smear campaign designed to undermine Gaetz’s ambitions for a possible 2024 presidential ticket with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis: “Gaetz and DeSantis are 2024 President material. Might be why DOJ is trynna target him.”
For three and a half years, QAnon followers have been waiting for a child sex-trafficking scandal involving high-profile lawmakers to be uncovered, and the alleged existence of a vast ring of elite child abusers lies at the center of the QAnon belief system.
But QAnon’s unhinged fantasies were based on Democratic and liberal Hollywood elites orchestrating a global child sex trafficking ring—not on allegations that an ultra-conservative MAGA Republican and staunch ally of QAnon messiah Donald Trump was having sex with a teenager and paying for her travels.
...The Times reports that the allegations against Gaetz stem from an investigation of a close political ally in Florida, Joel Greenberg, a former Seminole County tax collector who’s been charged with-- among other things-- “recruiting” and “soliciting” a teenage girl between 14 and 17 for sex for multiple months in 2017 in exchange for favors. Greenberg’s also been accused of creating fake IDs and making up child sex trafficking allegations against a political opponent.
...Gaetz is claiming the whole thing is an attempted extortion operation conducted by a former DOJ official named David McGee. Gaetz said his father was contacted via text on March 16 by McGee, who was seeking $25 million to keep quiet about the sex trafficking allegations.
...McGee denied the allegations in an interview Tuesday night with the Daily Beast, saying Gaetz’s claim is “a blatant attempt to distract from the fact that Matt Gaetz is apparently about to be indicted for sex trafficking underage girls.”
But for QAnon, Gaetz’s explanation made perfect sense.
“This kind of setup or smear campaign is consistent with evil,” wrote one member of the QAnon message board GreatAwakening.win. “The [deep state] will try to destroy all their opponents in any way possible. See ALL the FALSE accusations levied against the GOAT-- DJT. Evil accuses good of what they themselves do.”
When a poster on the same thread asked why Gaetz was being accused of this crime, another wrote: “He’s white and a male and supported Trump, duh.”