In the days following news that the Justice Department was investigating whether Gaetz violated sex trafficking laws – an allegation he denies – no Trump aide or family member tweeted at About the congressman from Florida. Likewise, hardly any of Trump’s most prominent surrogates or Trump-allied conservatives and media figures, including Sean Hannity, Dan Bongino, Charlie Kirk, or the President of the Conservative Union of America, Matt Schlapp, at the annual conference. of CPAC, Gaetz had recently appeared.
The Daily Beast reported on Friday night that Trump himself was monitoring the situation but following the advice of aides to remain silent on the matter. And several people close to their relationship have said Gaetz and Trump haven’t spoken out regularly lately, even after lawmakers offered to step down from Congress to join the former president’s impeachment defense team. in February.
Trump World agents say the silence is due to a variety of factors. Among them was the fact that Gaetz was always considered a grenade whose pin had already been fired. The congressman had a reputation for a wild personal lifestyle that the associates said bordered on recklessness at times. Some of Gaetz’s own collaborators would regularly send embarrassing videos of their bosses to other GOP agents, according to two people familiar with the videos.
“Anyone who’s ever spent 10 minutes with the guy would realize he’s a little serious person,” said a former Trump campaign aide.
Neither Gaetz nor his office returned a request for comment.
As Gaetz defended himself on the charges – with a TV appearance that left Fox News host Tucker Carlson stunned, and statements that denied the underlying accusation but admitted he was “generous as a partner ”- this perception has only strengthened.
“The reason you haven’t seen people in MAGA’s world defending Gaetz is less the fact that he’s unpopular, which he is in many circles, and more the fact that he didn’t. not done a single thing to make people feel comfortable defending. His interview with Tucker was an absolutely embarrassing train wreck, “a Trump confidant said.
Gaetz maintains friendly ties with some of the former president’s and Mar-a-Lago members’ greatest media champions. The Florida congressman proposed to his fiancee, Ginger Luckey, at a New Years Eve celebration at the Palm Beach club last December, which included a long guest list of MAGA celebrities and GOP donors.
“Congresswoman @MattGaetz asked and Ginger said ‘yes’,” Fox News’s Jeanine Pirro, one of the network’s leading pro-Trump commentators, written in a tweet announcing Gaetz’s engagement at the time.
But the congressman does not have particularly strong relationships within Trump’s core team. Some Trump confidants saw him as a shifter during Trump’s presidency, who was as eager to use his association with the 45th president to elevate his own career as he was to help Trump’s.
His self-promotion has occasionally produced prying eyes, especially on how he managed to position himself as the protagonist of an HBO documentary on DC during the Trump era. And he angered others by constantly attacking his own colleagues inside the House GOP conference. In late January, for example, Gaetz held a rally outside the Wyoming state capitol where he urged voters to get rid of Representative Liz Cheney, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump. for incitement to insurgency.
Of the half a dozen lawmakers who was quick to issue a statement in favor of Rep. Jim Jordan when it was reported that the Ohio Republican had covered up allegations of sexual abuse on the wrestling team at State University of Ohio, none defended Gaetz. But Jordan did. And so does Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Whose attempted conspiracy theories cost her committee assignments earlier this year.
In an op-ed on Monday, a rebellious Gaetz said he would not resign from Congress and compared his own situation to the allegations made against Trump and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whose Senate confirmation battle sank into chaos after being accused of sexually assaulting a former high school acquaintance. In a precisely worded statement, Gaetz denied ever paying for sex or having sex with an underage woman.
“My lifestyle might be different from what I live today, but it was not and is not illegal,” Gaetz wrote.
But Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy called the allegations “serious” and said if they proved to be valid, Gaetz would be removed from his post on the House’s armed and judicial services committees. And even former Democratic Rep. Katie Hill, who resigned her seat in California at the end of 2019 after becoming the target of pornographic revenge, said she would not support her congressional friend after he came. in his defense. Gaetz was reported to have shown photos of naked women to his colleagues while he was upstairs in the Chamber.
“If that’s true, Matt had engaged in the very practice he defended me against,” Hill wrote in Vanity Fair. “Sharing intimate images or videos of a person without their consent should be illegal, clear and simple.”
The congressman’s bitter denials were accompanied by a bizarre string of allegations that his father was the victim of an extortion plot involving a former Justice Department official earlier this year. During his March 30 appearance on Carlson’s prime-time television show, Gaetz said his father, former Florida Senate Speaker Don Gaetz, wore a thread during a meeting with the ‘one of the people involved in the alleged extortion plot. The Florida Republican also said the FBI was investigating the situation.
“If you just saw our interview with Matt Gaetz, it was one of the strangest interviews I’ve ever done,” Carlson told viewers afterwards.
Gaetz has not appeared on Fox News since.