After it was revealed that the Justice Department is investigating fanatical Trump supporter Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) over accusations that he had a sexual relationship with an under-aged girl and paid for her transportation across state lines, the Butthead doppelganger immediately took to the safe space of Fox News to adamantly deny the charges in an interview labeled “one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted” by the man questioning the panicking lawmaker, Tucker Carlson.
“It is a horrible allegation, and it is a lie. The New York Times is running a story that I have traveled with a 17-year-old woman, and that is verifiably false. People can look at my travel records and see that is not the case,” Gaetz desperately exclaimed.
Gaetz repeated his disclaimers at another point in the interview:
“I have not had a relationship with a 17-year-old. That is totally false. … And records will bear that out to be false.”
Apparently, the beleaguered Florida congressman was counting on people to take his word that his travel records would prove his innocence.
However, when The Washington Post asked for access to the supposedly vindicating documents neither Gaetz nor his staff responded to their queries.
As Salvador Rizz0 — the author of the newspaper’s Fact Checker column — put it:
“That’s very fishy.”
Rizzo knows that the personal travel and expense records of members of the House of Representatives are not publicly available, so there were actually no documents to examine that would shed any light on the truth or falsity of Gaetz’s cries of innocence.
“If this was just personal travel, and he wasn’t using campaign or official funds, there’s no disclosure,” Jordan Libowitz, communications director for the ethics watchdog group CREW in Washington, told The Washington Post.
“There’s no way to know without the DOJ subpoenaing his personal credit card records or those of Joel Greenberg, or someone else may have been involved,” Libowitz said, referring to the Florida GOP tax collector whose own investigation by federal officials on child sex trafficking charges led to the Justice Department’s probe of Gaetz.
The financial disclosures that the Florida congressman did submit to the House Ethics Committee and the Federal Election Commission, which included details of campaign expenses and official travel, do not include any of the information that could actually exonerate Gaetz, The Post writes.
“These forms do not require that Gaetz list every person who traveled with him on the trips he disclosed. At most, one House ethics form for disclosing ‘gift travel’ asks that accompanying ‘relatives’ or ‘family members’ be listed.”
“Gift travel filings show that Gaetz has taken three trips paid for by sponsors since taking office in 2017. The first was in August 2017 to three cities in Israel, paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation. Gaetz’s father, Donald Gaetz, joined him on the trip, and his expenses also were covered by the foundation, the form shows.”
Two other trips listed in the form do not include any mention of accompanying family members, and Gaetz’s financial disclosure forms for 2019, 2018, and 2017 do not list any travel payments or reimbursements.
Checking the lawmaker’s FEC campaign expenditure reports doesn’t shed any additional light on the subject either, since, while they list airfare expenditures and the airlines used, they do not include the names of those who were traveling.
According to The Washington Post:
“We repeatedly asked Gaetz’s chief of staff Jillian Lane Wyant and his spokesman Luke Ball to show us the travel records supposedly debunking the allegations and received no response. We also sent a text message directly to Gaetz with our query and got no reply.”
With no evidence to back up his statement that financial records would prove his innocence, the newspaper’s fact-checker was forced to award Gaetz’s claim four Pinocchios, its designation for the most egregious falsehoods trying to pass as truth.
“We searched through all the available records and found nothing to support Gaetz’s claim. We repeatedly asked his staff to show us the records and heard crickets. We asked Gaetz directly — nothing, radio silence,” Salvador Rizzo writes.“As regular readers know, the burden of proof is on the speaker. Gaetz is putting up a smokescreen, falsely reassuring viewers with nonexistent evidence,” he concludes.
Original reporting by Salvador Rizzo at The Washington Post.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.