Conservatives in Rep. Matt Gaetz's (R-Fla.) solidly Republican district are backing him amid credible reports that the Justice Department is investigating him for possible sex trafficking violations, paying for sex, and other scandalous allegations, but most other allies and Republican lawmakers are keeping him at arm's length. That includes, so far, Florida's most famous Republican, former President Donald Trump, Gaetz's political pole star. It also includes Trump's supporters in conservative media.
"Not a lot of people are surprised," one person involved in Trump's post-presidential operations explained to Politico. A former Trump campaign aide added that "anyone that has ever spent 10 minutes with the guy would realize he's an unserious person."
Gaetz has denied the allegations on Twitter, in an op-ed Monday, and in a poorly received interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson. "The reason you haven't seen people in MAGA world defending Gaetz is less about him being unpopular, which he is in a lot of circles, and more about the fact that he hasn't done a single thing to make people comfortable to defend him," one Trump confidante told Politico. "His interview with Tucker was an absolutely embarrassing train wreck."
Former Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) wrote in Vanity Fair on Monday that during her unlikely congressional friendship with Gaetz, he told her once "you gotta give the fans on Fox what they want, but I do love Donald Trump," adding, "I don't think I want to be in Congress after he's done as president."
Hill wrote that it meant a lot to her when, after her estranged husband leaked naked photos of her during their divorce, including ones showing her in an inappropriate relationship with a staffer, "Matt was the first member of Congress who publicly and unapologetically defended me, saying that while I might have made mistakes, I was a victim in this circumstance." But if, as CNN reports, Gaetz shared with GOP colleagues naked photos of women he said he slept with, she said, "he engaged in the very practice he defended me from — and should resign immediately."