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Gaetz Says Sex Trafficking Is Just Like Congressional Earmarks

He might feel differently after former “wingman” Joel Greenberg starts cooperating with federal prosecutors, but on Saturday Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told a crowd of Ohio Republicans that the sexual misconduct allegations swirling around him are as benign as legislative earmarks.

“I’m being falsely accused of exchanging money for naughty favors,” Gaetz said at the Ohio Political Summit, a gathering sponsored by the Strongsville GOP in suburban Cleveland. “Yet, Congress has reinstituted a process that legalizes the corrupt act of exchanging money for favors, through earmarks, and everybody knows that that’s the corruption.”

Gaetz has been linked to the former Florida tax collector for allegedly paying an underage girl for sex and participating in drug-fueled parties at Florida estates.

The event drew an audience of about 400 people in person; others watched online. Gaetz received a standing ovation at the conclusion of his remarks and several attendees approached Gaetz for autographs and selfies.

Saturday’s forum had been billed by the GOP as a major forum leading up to the 2022 midterm election, but it didn’t turn out that way as several Republican candidates for governor and U.S. House and Senate seats backed out in the past few days. Their campaign representatives wouldn’t say on the record why they declined to appear, but the cancellations all took place after Gaetz was added to the program. Another scheduled keynote speaker, Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, also was a no-show.

Much of Gaetz’s speech was a screed against non-Donald Trump Republicans like Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and former House speaker Paul Ryan. The Florida congressman did, however, heap praise on Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, saying that he aspired to be “the Robin to his Batman.” Then, for some reason, Gaetz decided to trash talk Ohio Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez.

(Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)

“Is it likely that the Anthony Gonzalez congressional career might mirror the Anthony Gonzalez NFL career?” Gaetz wondered. “Whole lot of hype, first round draft pick, out in four years.”

Gonzalez, who graduated from Ohio State University and was the 32nd pick in the 2007 NFL draft, played five seasons as a wide receiver with the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots. He later went on to earn a master’s degree from Stanford University. Gonzalez did not attend Saturday’s event, but that didn’t prevent him from throwing some major shade at Gaetz and the Strongsville GOP from afar.

“Ending child exploitation remains one of my top policy initiatives in Congress,” Gonzalez, alluding to the controversy surrounding Gaetz, tweeted during the event. “Anyone engaged in these heinous acts needs to be held accountable and taken off the streets.”



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