Days before scandal engulfed Matt Gaetz’s career, Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna went on Fox News to boast of his unlikely friendship with the MAGA congressman and claim the pair “even hang out.”
This week, however, as Gaetz faces a full-blown legal and political crisis, Khanna seems to have cooled on their friendship.
Gaetz and Khanna have long been touted as an example of bipartisanship during the Trump era, with the pair having appeared multiple times together in various media to demonstrate their bond. Last year, for example, HBO political documentary The Swamp showed the two working to block the White House from waging war with Iran. Over the summer, Khanna publicly called on Gaetz to “team up” to stop an amendment that would prevent a withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
And on March 25, Khanna appeared remotely alongside Gaetz on Fox News Primetime for a dual interview specifically centered on his relationship with the Florida Republican. “How do you explain how you like this guy? You told me off-camera that you and Matt get along,” host Brian Kilmeade asked.
“We do get along,” Khanna responded. “We work on common issues. We work to get PAC money out of politics. We both believe lobbyists shouldn’t be running this place. We both believe we shouldn’t be in foreign wars.”
He added: “Obviously, we disagree on issues but we actually engage in dialogue. We even hang out.”
Days later, Gaetz found himself at the center of a massive sex scandal, which includes an ongoing federal probe of allegations he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel across state lines with him. Gaetz also allegedly showed nude images of his sex partners to fellow lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
And so, during a Sunday afternoon interview, CNN host Jim Acosta brought up the accusations against Gaetz and referred back to Khanna telling Fox of his friendship with his pro-Trump colleague, asking the progressive congressman: “I’m sure you are horrified by these allegations against your friend. What do you make of all of this? Does it sound consistent with the Matt Gaetz that you know?”
Khanna firmly declared he was “shocked” and “disturbed” by the allegations. And then proceeded to back away from having ever referred to Gaetz as a pal.
“And I have never had any interactions with Matt Gaetz outside the Capitol,” Khanna declared. “Obviously, I totally condemn if he shared any of those pictures with anyone. I mean that should be investigated, as the speaker has said, with the ethics department.”
Khanna also downplayed his congressional relationship with Gaetz, saying that while he’s worked with Gaetz on some issues, he’s also partnered “with a lot of Republicans” on those issues before.
Acosta asked if Khanna had spoken with Gaetz since the allegations became public and whether he’d heard about the Florida lawmaker sharing nude pictures on the House floor, prompting Khanna to further widen the gulf between himself and Gaetz.
“It certainly wasn’t knowledge to me,” the California congressman exclaimed. “I don’t know if it was knowledge to others. But I was shocked about it. And I obviously have not talked to him or reached out, nor do I plan to. I mean, the allegations have been pretty shocking.”
In response to this story, Khanna provided the following statement to The Daily Beast: “I am appalled and outraged by the news we learned last week. Although bipartisanship is an increasingly rare concept in our politics, it is important to build coalitions to get anything done. The people of the 17th Congressional District elected me to solve problems, including ending our forever wars.”
“To that end, I have developed professional working relationships with several members across the aisle to deliver results for the American people,” the congressman added. “In Congress, we don’t get to choose our colleagues, which means we have to work with whoever the voters elect. But in light of the serious allegations that have come to light, there obviously needs to be a full investigation and the appropriate legal and ethical consequences.”