Matt Gaetz denies bizarre rumors of sex trafficking, killing; regrets association with Greenberg
"I never killed anyone," said the outspoken Florida Republican congressman. "You know, that is a horrible accusation."
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) denies a series of bizarre rumors and allegations circulating about him, including involvement in sex trafficking, misusing public or campaign funds, and even accidentally killing someone and moving the body — but he regrets his association with Joel Greenberg, who pled guilty to a sex trafficking charge.
"It is a bizarre experience to have these very strange accusations that bear no relationship to reality," Gaetz told the John Solomon Reports podcast. "You know, two and a half months ago, I was accused of things that are horrendous — all anonymously, of course. And for the last two and a half months, I've been accused of being a sex trafficker, of mistreating women, having a relationship with someone who was 17 years old. Let me state for the listeners unequivocally, all of that is false."
Matthew Phelan, a reporter working on a story about Gaetz for Mother Jones, left a voicemail for a former Gaetz staffer saying that he was following up on stories of Gaetz being "secretly bisexual" and "occasionally hooking up with men." Phelan referred to rumors of Gaetz "potentially accidentally killing someone" as an undergraduate student at Florida State University and "conspiring with his father and some other people to move the body to Jacksonville." He also referred to "a handful of sex tapes that have been used to blackmail [Gaetz] dating back to his college years" and asked the former staffer if he had any knowledge of these accusations.
"I never killed anyone," said Gaetz in response to the allegations surfaced by Phelan. "You know, that is a horrible accusation. I'm not a bisexual — not that there's anything wrong with being a bisexual ... I'm into the ladies ... and the rest of this, I think, is largely intended to try to deplatform me as a rhetorical force in our movement."
A former Florida state legislature staffer emailed Phelan to follow up an earlier conversation they'd had. "I have never been harassed by Matt Gaetz," she clarified for Phelan.
"Matt and I have never had a personal relationship," the staffer wrote. "Any interaction with him or his office has always been respectful and kind. You stated someone told you I received some kind of death threat and that's just a false accusation."
Gaetz responded to the woman's exchange with Phelan, saying: "There's no woman out there with any type of accusation that I've engaged in this conduct toward them. Now I know people make up crazy stories, and there are crazy allegations all the time. But here I am facing two and a half months of endless, anonymous allegations, and not a single woman has stood up to say like, 'Let me tell you the story of Matt Gaetz having mistreated me.' And that's because I treat women with respect. I was raised by a mother in a wheelchair since I was three years old. I understand the importance and just the gratitude that I show women. My entire congressional office is essentially run by women. And so I take these accusations very seriously."
When asked if he'd been involved in sex trafficking young women, Gaetz replied, "Absolutely not, unequivocally false."
Asked if he had murdered anyone while at Florida State University, Gaetz responded, "I have never murdered anyone."
Responding to the accusation that he moved a body of someone who was murdered, Gaetz said, "I have also not moved any bodies that anyone else has murdered."
Gaetz also denied having sex with a minor "as an adult person," saying, "the last time I had sex with a 17-year-old, I was 17. And those allegations are false."
He was asked about accusations that he had misused money from his congressional office or campaign. "I have not misused public funds, I have not misused campaign funds," Gaetz said. "My belief is that the reason that those allegations are being leaked is to create the predicate to try to get deeper into the important work of my congressional office and the important work that I'm doing as a political figure in this country who has a distinct view and a distinct vision as to how to take this country … Those allegations, while false, are specifically geared to try to disrupt the efforts that are important to the American people."
An associate of Gaetz, Joel Greenberg, has pled guilty on six federal counts, including the sex trafficking of a 17-year-old. The case initiated a federal investigation into the congressman.
Gaetz was asked if he had concerns about being implicated by Greenberg in any wrongdoing. "I do not," he replied. "... There are probably many Americans who regret a friendship or two that they've made in their life. This is certainly one that I regret. I think it is entirely fair for my constituents to pass judgment on me based on those I've associated with. And this was an association that I should not have made.
"And I think that it would be fair and just and proper for my constituents to evaluate that mistake I made, in association, alongside the other work that I've done to fight for them. And, you know, we all make mistakes in that regard. But I am not concerned that Mr. Greenberg is in possession of some smoking gun piece of evidence, because I did not do the things that they are accusing me of doing. And I think we're gonna learn a lot more about Mr. Greenberg and what he's been saying and what he's been doing, if, in fact, the government continues to pursue me."