It has been quite the week for Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who has found himself in the hot seat after the New York Times published an explosive new report alleging the lawmaker “is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him.” As apparently “a variety of federal statutes make it illegal to induce someone under 18 to travel over state lines to engage in sex in exchange for money or something of value," officials are reportedly looking into whether the representative broke any trafficking laws when allegedly traveling with the girl in 2019. According to a later report from the publication, the probe is also purported to be looking into Gaetz's “involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments.”
As the Rep. denies these allegations, telling the Daily Beast that “The last time I had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old, I was 17," he explained to Fox News anchor, Tucker Carlson that the New York Times story was a “planted leak,” claiming that he and his family are being shaken down for $25 million in an act of what the politician says is "organized criminal extortion." During his appearance on Fox, Gaetz explained that someone texted his father “demanding a meeting wherein a person demanded $25 million in exchange for making horrible sex trafficking allegations against me go away.”
With the story becoming more complicated by the minute, keeping up with Gaetzgate's infinite twists and turns is not a task for the faint of heart. From the strange item reportedly found sitting atop a trash bin outside of Gaetz's office, and some of the lawmaker's very unfortunate resurfaced tweets, here at 4 bizarre details you may have missed about Gaetzgate.
In a political move that has aged like a fine glass of milk on a hot summer day, Insider notes that the Republican lawmaker was the only Congressional opponent to the bi-partisan “The Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act" of 2017. Created with the intention of assigning a "designated a trafficking prevention coordinator at the Department of Transportation and created a committee to develop best practices for states and transportation stakeholders to combat human trafficking," according to the publication, the bill was ultimately passed and signed into law by then-President Trump in January 2018.
Although both sides of the aisle seemingly worked together to bring the important act into law, Gaetz was reportedly a single congressional naysayer, the lone vote against the bill that ultimately passed 418 - 1.
According to the New York Times, in 2019 and 2020, Rep. Gaetz and his associate Joel Greenburg, a former tax collector that was indicted on several felony charges last year, including one for federal sex trafficking, reportedly partied hard together, allegedly offering women money to meet with them at hotels. “Some of the men and women took ecstasy, an illegal mood-altering drug, before having sex, including Mr. Gaetz, two people familiar with the encounters said,” the newspaper reported. “In some cases, Mr. Gaetz asked women to help find others who might be interested in having sex with him and his friends, according to two people familiar with those conversations. Should anyone inquire about their relationships, one person said, Mr. Gaetz told the women to say that he had paid for hotel rooms and dinners as part of their dates.”
Despite these wild stories, when it comes to his time in politics, the representative generally keeps to himself, according to the Daily Beast. “I don’t really socialize with my colleagues,” he said in a 2019 BuzzFeed News write-up centering around what some have called his “workaholic” tendencies, apparently in response to missing a West Virginia Republican retreat. However, it seems Gaetz should have considered attending the retreat after all — according to the article, members of the Republican party generally aren't big Gaetz fans. “I don’t think a lot of people are going to go out of their way to defend him, especially with this outlandish-sounding defense,” a GOP staffer explained to the Daily Beast. “I don’t think you’ll find a lot of people who are desperate to keep him involved in Republican politics,” they continued, with a separate “republican operative” noting that the party "doesn’t like him very much."
Even so, Gaetz still reportedly still showed his congressional colleagues images and videos of naked women he says he had sex with, including one clip allegedly depicting a nude woman hula hooping, CNN reported Thursday, with one source noting that “it was a point of pride” for the lawmaker.
Considering this scrutiny, it seems Gaetz may have been relatively haphazard when it comes to cleaning up after himself. “A Hill source sent The Daily Beast a photo of a trash bin outside Gaetz's office as lawmakers cleared out their offices at the end of a recent session," the Daily Beast wrote in the same article. "At the top of the heap was an empty Costco-size box of ‘Bareskin’ Trojan condoms."
Amid the allegations, several internet sleuths have taken to Twitter in an attempt to answer the age-old question of “how could we have predicted this mess?" in their noble pursuits, several posts have made the rounds once again, their meanings skewed in the broader context of the reports. First up? the tweet behind the entire scandal's nickname. Just last week, 'Space Karen' Elon Musk took to Twitter to share a message for his 50 million followers and apparently the press corps, requesting a highly-specific (and quintessentially Musk) nickname for any future controversies involving him – none other than "Elongate"
In a glorious act of cosmic foreshadowing, Gaetz snapped quipped back making a similar, likely unwitting request for his impending scandal. “Deal. I want Gaetzgate,” he wrote.
Yet the lawmaker's interaction with the SpaceX CEO is far from the most alarming posts unearthed amid the scandal. In what could easily be one of the most retroactively unfortunate posts to ever grace the Twittersphere. In a reply to pop star Bebe Rexha's 2019 assertion that “there’s no age that you can’t be be sexy,” Gaetz proposed a suggestion that will inevitably go down in the annals of history – featuring the singer's tweet on Florida's welcome sign.
So folks, as more details emerge about the alleged investigation into Matt Gaetz, remember one thing – he is definitely not Matt Gertz.