The story of Rep. Matt Gaetz is like one of those horror films that generates an extra large jolt of fear by first tossing up something that causes laughter. It’s clear that what Gaetz has done is genuinely criminal, and that the way his crimes were systematically ignored by Republicans at every level in both Florida and Washington, D.C. speaks to an incredible level of hypocrisy and corruption. On the other hand, the details are … ridiculous.
For example, Gaetz has repeatedly put out statements saying that “Rep. Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex.” It turns out this may be true. Technically. Because as Daily Beast reports, records show that Gaetz only paid his friend Joel Greenberg. It was Greenberg who then actually paid for the sex. This is the kind of logic that’s certain to make heads nod on the couches of Fox & Friends. “See? Gaetz was telling the truth.”
But to take this claim and turn the facepalm level to 11, it turns out that Gaetz paid Greenberg $900 using the cash app Venmo. Greenberg then sent cash along to three women, also using Venmo, that totaled $900. And before anyone starts up the Fox-brand coincidence engine, Gaetz included a memo along with his payment saying “hit up ___” where “___” was the name of one of the women involved.
This comes on the same day that Gaetz’s office issued a statement saying the women on his staff thought of him as “a principled and morally grounded leader” and that none of them had witnessed anything other than “the utmost professionalism and respect.” There was no mention of whether Gaetz had provided these women with blindfolds or fireplace pokers on entry into his office.
In an over-the-top op-ed, Gaetz warned that there would be a “drip drip drip” of news coming out about his activities. Somehow, Gaetz seems to think that the more information appears, the more it shows that he is innocent. But at this point, the sheer amount of daily material appearing on Gaetz is more than a little daunting, and it’s not as if all of this is coming through leaks at the FBI or Department of Justice. Gaetz seems to have done almost nothing to hide his activities.
And that’s perhaps the most disturbing part of this story. Not what Gaetz did, but that he did it so loudly. From the sex games he played in the Florida House—where sleeping with interns was a goal and finding virgins scored extra “points”—to the nude videos he has circulated on the flood of the U.S. House, Gaetz was absolutely open with his fellow Republicans. Gaetz walked around preaching family values while apparently jetting off to visit sex workers in the Bahamas, or working with Greenberg to generate fake IDs for underage girls, or paying for those girls to fly to hotels where Gaetz could be “generous” to them with “gifts.”
No Republican in either Washington or Florida can claim to be surprised about Matt Gaetz. The news that’s drip, drip, dripping out each day isn’t a revelation to them. Gaetz has bragged about these things for years. This is a guy who ran a concerted campaign in favor of revenge porn. And not once was any of it allowed to slow his rise through Republican ranks. Gaetz was passing around nude photos of his conquests on the House floor as other Republicans were lining up behind him as a “leader.”
Whether it was acting as one of Donald Trump’s biggest supporters, voting to overturn the results of the 2020 election, or storming a secure facility with phone cameras running, other Republicans have repeatedly stood behind Gaetz both figuratively and literally, and all the time they knew exactly who he was. There may be staffers now coming forward with horror stories, but it’s been only weeks since congressmen with decades of experience lined up to champion Gaetz.
PizzaGaetz, FloodGaetz, GaetzGate ... whatever the name, it just keeps getting worse. And it’s not just about Matt Gaetz. It’s about the Republican Party and a culture that regularly ignores misogyny, sexual harassment, and genuine crimes. Because when it comes to abuse of women … that’s what being a Republican is all about.
It certainly explains the difficulty in passing a new version of the Violence Against Women Act.
In any case, the specifics of this little bit of the story about teenage sex trafficking, buying sex for other Republican officials, and the international “ganjapreneur” story may be about to unwind in the public eye as Greenberg has apparently decided to take a deal in exchange for testimony. As The New York Times reports, Gaetz isn’t involved in all of Greenberg’s charges—such as stalking a political opponent or trying to bribe a federal official—but Gaetz was certainly there for many of the charges that are about to be laid out in great detail.
What’s a good sign that Greenberg’s testimony won’t be good for Gaetz? Maybe this statement from Greenberg’s attorney: “I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” said attorney Fritz Scheller.
Republicans in general shouldn’t be feeling too comfortable. Unfortunately, they are.
When it comes to Joel Greenberg and the trio of women to whom he distributed Gaetz’s funds, there is no direct mention of their age. However, the terms that Greenberg placed in the memos of their payments might give a clue: “Tuition,” “School,” and “School.”